As not to get too out of order, I thought I should recount the actual move over to Ireland from departing our house in N. Redington Beach to moving into our rental in Dungarvan, Ireland. The move, for the most part, went off without a hitch. Surprisingly, Murphy of Murphy’s Law fame, did not show his face. There were of course some stressful moments which I will recount here for your reading enjoyment.
Right out of the block, the stress began. As some of you may remember, a big snow storm was barreling down on the northeast coast 2 weeks ago and airlines were canceling flights across the country. As you might suspect, the customer service numbers for the airlines were inundated with calls of people frantic about their cancelled or potentially cancelled flights. This is where our (more specifically, my) stress begins. As I am usually paranoid when it comes to making flights anyways, you can imagine I am doubly paranoid of making a move of this magnitude. The approach of the storm certainly wasn’t helping matters and to make matters worse, we received an email from a travel alert company called Tripit that our flight was cancelled about an hour before we were supposed to leave for the airport. Thus my frantic calls to the airline begins and guess what, there is over a 2 hour wait to speak to a customer rep at the airline (alert level has now risen to amber.) So according to the airline’s web site, the flight is on time and all is good with the world, but me being a Murphy, I am expecting the worst. At this point, my brother-in-law Gary shows up at the door for our ride to the airport. So after much gnashing of teeth, it was decided we would head off to the airport and get the story direct from the horse’s mouth. So we finish buttoning up the house for its long winters nap and commence the loading process of luggage for a year’s stay in Ireland.
As you can imagine, trying to figure out what to bring for a year stay in Ireland was a daunting task. Yes, we were moving into a fully furnished house in Ireland but a lot of unknowns were there to contend with. Suffice to say, we had quite a few bags with us and thanks to frequent flyer miles, we had a large luggage allowance in business class (yeah!). So after a fairly lengthy loading process we shoehorned it all into Gary’s large Ford Escape (here’s that plug for Ford you were hoping for Gary J ). Of course, now I’m thinking just how in the hell are we going to get all this luggage into the rental car at the other end (stress level reaching red). So off we go to the airport with the smart phones playing the relaxing music you get when you’re on hold with the airlines. Finally some good news at this point. After most of the flight status sites showed our flight cancelled, there was now a change in the status to on time. Of course, being paranoid and at a stress level approaching red, I was not totally convinced. We soldiered on because that’s what you do when you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature and the airlines.
Good news finally once we make it the airport, the flight is on time and all is well. We say our goodbyes to Gary and after several back and forth trips to the car, get everything to the check-in counter. I haven’t mentioned our dog Rudy to this point because he is a seasoned traveler and pretty much goes with the flow (I say pretty much because he caused some issues later in the trip, more on that later). We get checked-in with only 1 minor bag issue so I’m feeling much better. So we’re off to the airline lounge courtesy of a business class ticket (stress level approaching green at this point).
We make it to New York Kennedy airport without incident and were very happy to hear there is a pet relief station at the terminal we’re leaving from just a few gates from our departure gate. Wow – things are looking up. Even better, the lounge is only a few gates the other way so our layover of a couple hours should be a stress free time. Well, things were going very well. In fact, too well. We made the assumption that we would hang out in the lounge up until an hour or so from the flight departure time and then head to the pet relief station so Rudy could do his business and then off to the gate for an on time departure. This is where the wheels fall off in the story because our dog Rudy is apparently very picky when it comes to where he will relieve himself. A brief description of the pet relief station is in order here. It is a small room divided into 2 halves with a small divider in between. The one half is covered in what looks like green indoor/outdoor carpeting with a little fire hydrant on one side and a drain and hose on the other side. All very neat and tidy. The other side is basically the same floor as the outside terminal floor. No problem you say…if only it were that simple. We tried at least 5 times to get Rudy to do his business. Sadly, he wasn’t having anything to do with it. Here is where our story takes a turn for the worse.
As most of you know, the flight over to Europe usually takes in excess of 6 hours. Rudy at this point had been holding it since we left Tampa. Now don’t get me wrong here, he is a trooper and probably could have held it till Ireland, but that would not be a good thing to do to even your worst enemy, let alone our little buddy Rudy. So Kathy decides at this point to take him outside of the airport to do his thing. Turns out this is no easy task in such a large airport. Suffice to say, it was not a timely process for her to get out of the airport. At this point in our journey, we’re about an hour from the actual departure time. So after the first 30 minutes since her departure, I decide it would be better if I met them at the gate instead of in the lounge. So off I go to the gate with all our carry-ons. Yes, we have plenty of carry-on’s as well. Did I mention we were packing for a year? At this point, my stress level is reaching amber again as boarding has begun and there is no sign of Kathy. After a few frantic calls to Kathy where I succeed in raising her stress level, I am heading towards stress level red. Everyone has boarded the plane and Kathy is still on the bus between terminals and the bus is stuck due to some construction. Now my mind is thinking questions like where will we stay tonight, how will we survive for what would probably be 2 days in the airport because of the impending snow storm and why in the hell is this happening to such nice people like us??? Well folks, the good news is old man Murphy was thwarted again and we made it on to the flight, a little bit harried but on our way.
The flight itself went off without a hitch. It was business class, so Rudy found the accommodations much to his liking. A word about Rudy here. As you are probably thinking, what is Rudy doing on the plane with us? Kathy’s doctor has verified that Rudy is her ESA (Emotional Support Animal), so Rudy can travel with her in the plane. Thankfully, Rudy made the trip over to Ireland with an empty bladder and in style. I have to say he was the perfect pet on the plane not even barking once and sleeping for most of the flight. Did I mention he goes by the name O’Rudy now in honor of his new Irish home?
Our arrival in Ireland was a non-event. We were met at the gate by an airport representative to ensure we made it to animal control for Rudy’s immigration approval. The process of bringing a pet has changed since 2014, making it much easier to bring your animal to Ireland (more on that process in a future blog). After a quick check and a 50 euro fee, Rudy was in the clear. Now as for Kathy and myself, it was a pretty straight forward process as well. Especially for Kathy since she has dual citizenship. I was given a 90 day tourist visa and sent on my way. I will discuss my longer term immigration process in a future blog (don’t you love all these teasers?). All that said, we were through to the car rental counter in fairly straight order. Now you remember all that luggage I was telling you about? My concern all along had been how we would fit all our luggage into what most certainly be a smaller vehicle in Ireland. I even brought some bungee cords with in anticipation of having to tie down the trunk or hatchback of whatever tiny little car we got. In fairness, we did order an intermediate size car so I thought we might make it but after seeing how the luggage fit into Gary’s roomy Ford Escape back home, the stress level had been headed north the more I thought about it. After much discussion at the rental car desk, it was decided that for a mere 10 euro more a day, we could have a SUV type vehicle. After some haggling, we were able to get the 2nd driver and upgrade for an additional 10 euro a day. We had decided to get a rental car for the first month to give us time to find a good used car (more on that later).
It was a good thing we got the upgraded car because we barely got our luggage to fit into the car as it was. So, equipped with our rental car, given entry to the country for at least 90 days in my case, we set off for our new home in Dungarvan, a mere 2 ½ hour drive from Dublin airport. I’ll go into more details in a future blog about the house rental and plans for an extended visa. The drive down was surprisingly uneventful given we were driving on limited sleep, on the wrong side of the road and in a car where the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. Now I say wrong side, of course, based on how things are setup in the US. But over here, it definitely makes sense and they wonder how we can drive clearly on the wrong side of the road. One other thing to note and something that was a non-starter was the use of an automatic vs. manual transmission. While I have driven a manual in Ireland in the past, it is definitely a unique experience trying to shift with your left hand combined with all the other driving changes. And in Kathy’s case, she can’t drive a manual either way, so a manual rental car was a no-go from the start.
Arrival in Dungarvan thanks to the wonderful technology GPS was a breeze. Not to mention that I had toured the town extensively using Google maps street view. Have you tried it? It is really amazing and a great tool to familiarize yourself with any new place you’re going to. It was also helpful that we had T-Mobile which gives you free data when you travel to Europe and other locales as part of your US plan (and I’m not even getting paid for these plugs). Without it, we would have been out of luck for navigation assistance. Such a deal I say. I can’t tell you how much the GPS has helped in minimizing arguments in the car with my wife Kathy. It takes the guess work out of driving and puts any blame on the app in case of wrong directions. I can only imagine just how many marriages it has saved. So, suffice to say, we made it to our house without a hitch. Welcome home or in Gaelic, Fáilte Abhaile.
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