Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Trip

I've missed writing.
It's been a few months of not knowing exactly what I could or should write, though. At some point you get tired of saying, "Hey guys, don't worry- we're still not pregnant..." and at some point it's just good for me to be still. At some point I can't exactly publicize all the ins and outs of what's going on in my life either, and usually that's very okay.

But writing is an important way for me to process through all The Stuff and that's something I've been neglecting.  It's also a great way for me to remember.

So here I am.
This particular post isn't really for anyone but myself. It's public because somewhere out there it may benefit someone or might interest someone a bit. You just never know.

My husband and I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Europe. Whirlwind because in our 13 days of being gone, we hit up 5 different locations: Manchester, Edinburgh, London, Dublin and Lahinch/Cliffs of Moher. We averaged 8-12 miles per day of walking, spent way too much money, ate delicious food, and experienced some incredible things. We stayed in hotels, apartments, hostels, cottages and castles.

We walked through the National Football Museum and learned all the things about soccer and the history of it. We ate food in Chinatown. We got a tour of Etihad Stadium and then saw Manchester City get destroyed in a football match against Liverpool (and heard lots of crass and angry language in the process). We discovered that our plan to change seats halfway through (we were sitting in VERY different spots during the match) was foiled due to high security and a stadium that doesn't allow the first floor to access the second or third. We mastered all types of public transportation. My husband got close to perfecting his Australian accent (yes, it's just as confusing as it sounds). We found ourselves in Christmas markets all over town, buying international adapters, and eating our first round of fish and chips.

We rented a car where we drove on the left side of the road on the right side of the car all the way to Edinburgh. We pre-filled our tank which, we now realize, is always a bad decision. We saw sheep...lots of sheep. Blue and red spotted sheep. We saw the sun set behind a castle. We saw Susan Boyle sing Silent Night while we stood on the street in a crowd of thousands of people where fireworks soon followed. We saw a circus performance where a very strong woman did impressively strong things and a man wearing a bear suit held a lunchbox and then did tricks on a pole. We walked the Royal Mile, toured our way through Parliament and hiked up to check out Arthur's Seat in the middle of Holyrood Park. We drank tea and ate waffles at the Elephant House, where Harry Potter was jotted down. We went on a ghost tour and barely escaped the claws of the Mackenzie Poltergeist. We were truly enchanted by Scotland and all it had to offer.

We trained our way to London and found ourselves suddenly thrown into the hustle and bustle of tourism at it's finest. Inside the British Museum we saw mummies and really old human remains. We tried bartering with a man on a street for Lion King tickets, but opted out of 'standing spots only' and decided to check out The War Horse. The puppetry of the horse was incredible and I may have shed a tear (and missed our dog) as a result of the show. We watched the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace and got to hear the band play a surprising amount of the score from Les Miserables. We marveled at the history inside of Westminster Abbey--and I think this was one of my favorite parts of the trip, still. We got two for the price of one so we decided to check out the London Dungeon...where I discovered that Sweeney Todd might just be real and had fake leeches crawl under my bum while the plague was dramatized before our eyes. We happily strolled through the Hyde Park Christmas markets and drooled at the crepes (but couldn't buy because we had no cash and had forgotten our debit card).

A subway, train, and plane ride later, we headed into the heart of Dublin to join forces with friends for Thanksgiving night, thankfully making the switch from pounds to euros. While our connection wasn't seamless, we finally found each other and our Thanksgiving consisted of an Irish pub with pumpkin pie and American football (the Irish were loudly cheering on the Panthers and the Cowboys presence was minimal, at best). The Guinness Tour and the Musical Pub Crawl were next on the docket. McDonalds was somewhere in there, too (don't judge). The pub crawl had less pubs and more music, and we learned the ins and outs of a traditional "session". We tapped our boots, listened intently and cheered, "You couldn't have come at a better time" when prompted by our guides. We learned that thirty sounds a lot like 'turdy' and that three sounds much like 'tree' and if you're ever the third wheel, you might just actually be the 'turd' wheel (sorry). Following our guide's recommendation, we worked our way over to another pub and found ourselves in the midst of a real live traditional session. It was intimate, beautiful, and honest and I felt privileged to catch a glimpse of this remarkable musical talent. There were instruments of all types- the bodhran, the accordian, the fiddle, pipes and a couple extremely captivating vocalists. Old men. Young men. Irish history and culture on full display. Another favorite of mine.

My first night in a hostel involved 22 other folks, little sleep and fears of falling off the top bunk in wee hours of the morning. Despite the cold wind and the rain, we jumped on a charter bus the next morning to see the Wicklow mountains and Glendalough (oh, and the PS I Love You bridge, of course). While we started off drenched, the rain let up for the perfect amount of time so we might enjoy a bit of an exploratory walk before heading to, yet another, pub. Did you know Irish stew is fantastic? We found another Christmas market and the most tasty cheeseburger and I unhappily bobbed my head to some non-traditional Irish music. A second night in the hostel included my poor husband vomiting up the fish and chips he had eaten a few hours earlier (everyone can cringe now).

Another rental car, Papa Johns in our bellies, and three hours later took us across Ireland to a small coastal town called Lahinch. There has never been a windier place in all of my history of life. Beautiful views, a quick grocery stop and a night in a cottage with homemade scones and a sweet frontal Mary. We shared the things in this past year we were thankful for and made our way to another pub with high hopes of catching another traditional session. Instead we found burpees, arm wrestling and a juke box.

Prepared for the worst, wettest, windiest weather, we set out for the Cliffs of Moher the following morning. The Lord was so gracious with the weather and we were easily able to enjoy the great outdoors. Quite possibly one of the most continuously beautiful hikes I've ever been on. 8 kilometers along the coast, testing sketchy grounds and snapping hundreds of pictures. The most gigantic waves crashing 700 feet below us, getting scolded by my over-protective husband for getting too close to the edge, leaping over streams, trudging through mud, checking out a washed up whale or shark-type thing. And, of course, stopping every few minutes to hem and haw over how stunning the landscape was. Definitely at the top of the list: you must do this if you ever visit Ireland!

A final pub, a final cider (Orchard Thieves, anyone?) and the drive back to Dublin to stay in a marvelous castle for the night. Upgraded to a suite, we left with an Irish breakfast in our stomachs, the $1800 hold on our card for the rental car guaranteed to be released and 24 hours of travel to make it back home. We may have flown on the oldest plane still in motion, but we survived the 8 hours (even without televisions in the back of the seat in front of us). During our 6 hour lay over in Philadelphia we happened upon a group of men singing Christmas carols in our attempts to get more steps in for the day. We sang with them, filled with good cheer and Christmas spirit! Another 5 and a half hours on another ancient plane, a quick blip in Phoenix and we breathed a sigh of relief when we rolled into Albuquerque airport just before midnight. Time travel, at it's finest.

We survived.
The dog survived (with only a few minimal incidents of an escaped kennel due to an intense battle with diarrhea and an escaped fence due to a bandit of a dog friend).

The world around us is in mayhem and I have a thousand deeper thoughts on all the things we actually experienced, but now we at least have a little bit of what we did documented.

Ultimately, we are thankful. Reminded, yet again, of how much bigger the world is and how small we are in the scope of time. It's crazy humbling. Our eyes are bigger. The Lord is bigger. Pray we don't forget it.


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