We shifted uncomfortably in our seats in the international terminal of Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. No amount of rotating achy shoulders or stretching restless legs could erase a poor night’s sleep on an overnight KLM flight from Boston. After struggling to prop open our eyelids during a three-hour layover, my sister and I boarded an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin, our excitement muted by exhaustion. We were one sleepy hour away from the homeland.
We Monahan girls are first-rate planners and we coordinated for months, using e-mails and phone calls to plot out our vacation. We had already agreed on Ireland in one of our more spur of the moment decisions. I would embark from Boston. Would Kristen meet me in Dublin or fly from New York to Boston and travel with me? Did we want to see the whole country in one crazed week or assume that we would return one day to see the rest? Were we traveling the rails or driving the roads between towns? I wanted to take the tour of the Guinness factory. She wanted to travel out to County Meath to see Newgrange, a prehistoric mound monument aligned with the rising sun during the winter solstice. We opted to stay in bed and breakfasts and grumbled at how one of the most Irish cities in America could have so few direct flights to Ireland.
In Amsterdam, Kristen fell asleep the minute she clicked her seat belt into place, her head propped up against the window, coat collar pulled up to her ears. I chatted politely with the man on my right. For as many times as I’ve complained that I have “talk to me” tattooed to my forehead, I’ve engaged in conversations with strangers on trains or airplanes. Robert hoped to make it home in time from a work trip on the continent to do a Saturday morning orienteering race with his kids. As we hit cruising altitude I pulled out the maps to plot our course from the car rental company at Terminal 2 to the bed and breakfast we had booked on the outskirts of the city. The man sketched out a direct route on the airsickness bag. We landed and I started feeling clammy, nervous and responsible for making sure our trip ran smoothly. He wished us luck and we set out for the baggage carousel and then the car park.
I cursed my Irish stubbornness. We sat in our rental Opel, me in the driver’s seat getting familiar with how to turn on the headlights, the windshield wipers, and the defogger, my sister comparing the city map with the scribblings on the airplane barf bag . Of course I had rented a stick shift car because that’s what I drive at home. Of course the Irish drive on the opposite side of the road from North Americans, meaning I’d be shifting with my left hand. Why oh why could I not have simply rented the automatic? However, I was determined to succeed. Besides, I had no choice. I cautiously pulled out of my parking spot and stalled. Giggling despite myself, I restarted the car and headed towards the airport exit, my sister hanging on to the door handle for dear life.
Robert’s directions and Kristen’s navigation got us through town. I parallel parked the car on the left near the bed and breakfast, cracking a hubcap in the process, and got out of the car grateful to temporarily be out of transit. I stretched, breathed in the misty April air, and smiled at my sister. We grabbed our bags out of the trunk and dragged them up the steps. We thought we were ready for anything the east coast of Ireland could throw at us.