Flying to Ireland tends to be an adventure, even more so this year. As I’m in Ireland as part of my advisors Project and grant we arrange our flights through a specific travel agency. This requires a lot of back and forth emailing getting everyone’s schedules and monetary requirements straightened out and then once we find a flight, the agent must then email our project leader to approve our choice for purchase. This year was more difficult in general. In my case it was easier. I couldn’t afford airfare for my daughter, much less the mandatory nanny, so I was the only one going. However, it’s the last year on my advisors grant, therefore money was tight. Not only that, but we couldn’t purchase our airfare until two weeks before we left! The direct flights to Belfast were too expensive at $1600, so we decided to fly into Dublin. We’ve done it before. It’s only a 2 hour bus or train ride up to Belfast. The flights that were approved finally were from home, to Newark, to Heathrow, London, then to Dublin on a carrier coach through Aer Lingus. definitely not a flight I would go for travelling with my 3 year old, but I could manage myself. On the way home we were flying from Dublin to Heathrow, to Washington Dulles then to home. Now that part was done I had two weeks to get all of my gear together and prepare all of my documents, maps and data for what work I planned on accomplishing this summer. No problems.
We flew out on the 21st of May at 10 in the morning on an hour flight to Newark. We weren’t scheduled to fly out of Newark until 7pm….long layover. Three of us were travelling together so we had plenty to talk about and the time flew by relatively quickly. At Newark, we sat on the plane for an hour due to mechanical difficulties: the lights said the bathrooms were full and needed to be drained even though that had already been done. When we had checked into our flights that morning, I had been told that we would have to claim our bags at Heathrow for customs purposes, an recheck them when we checked into our flight to Dublin. They couldn’t check us in for that flight. We had two hours in Heathrow and had just lost one. This was not boding well. My one companion and myself were having unusual problems with our ears and nausea this trip and the overseas flight did not prove ay different. Dinner time arrived and I wanted the pasta dish due to the stomach issues, but no, they had already run out and all they had left was BBQ chicken. Well….I ate the roll….didn’t sleep much either.
Upon starting our descent to London, they passed our the customs cards and told us over the PA that if we had connecting flights to another country (i.e. Ireland) then we didn’t need to fill one out. Yay for us I guess the woman at the check-in counter was wrong…..well she was only partially wrong. We thought we would have just enough time to get to the check-in counter for our next flight. On our way we suddenly ran into a customs line and counters. The customs agent politely told us that it’s a common problem with our airline in regards to being told we didn’t need to fill out a card and gave us cards. We filled them out and got back in line. The agent wished me a Happy Birthday as it was now my 30th birthday and was very nice about everything and stamped our passports. Seemed silly since we were just going to have to do this again in Dublin, oh well. Chances now seemed slim that we would make our flight and all hopes were completely dashed when we then suddenly encountered a security check point around the neck corner. Apparently Heathrow now has biometric photograph checkpoints. Once we all had our photos taken we made our way to the Aer Lingus counter in a line of about a dozen people in the same situation as ourselves. We missed our flight. Good news was that they fit us on the next flight departing in about an hour. We’d miss our bus, but we already knew that we could jump on the next bus an hour later than planned.
That flight went well and our next adventure did not occur until customs at Dublin. There was an incredibly long line that we spent about 45 minutes in winding our way along. Finally got that wonderful stamp in the passport after many questions and moved along to wait for the bus. Finally, after dozing on the bus we got our rental car and drove the 1.5 hours to Armagh and settled in the houses, too tired to celebrate my big 30th at all.
The first few days were rather boring due to the fact that our permits for this year had not arrived yet, so we couldn’t start any work. They consisted of gathering our supplies out of storage and getting all of our 5 years of soil samples out of the Navan Centre as they were going to start renovations shortly and needed them moved. After that it was keeping ourselves occupied until our license arrived……