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IRELAND
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Our one and only visit to the Emerald Isle was on the actual weekend of our 25th anniversary during November. We left Detroit Thursday afternoon and arrived in Dublin the next morning. We flew back home on Sunday.

Dublin was a busy and interesting town but not quite as neat as I expected. Everybody I’ve ever talked to just raved about Dublin and while it was nice and the people OK, it wasn’t what we really expected. I guess we’re used to bigger towns like London.

The friendly people I had heard about were---well, nice but not as friendly as we had found in London. Instead of being light and cheery I kept getting the impression that they were just getting along with life. I’m sure you may have had a very different experience there and some day we’ll go back and do some real exploring in the Irish countryside.

Our favorite meal came at a restaurant called the King Sitric in Howth, a short DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit ride) ride north. We stopped at a pub and I sampled a Guinness on tap. When the guy poured the beer from the tap and filled it nearly full but not quite I reached for it. He said "not quite yet" and explained that it had to “settle” for a couple of minutes. It magically turned from a creamy brown to nearly jet black. THEN the pub tender filled the top off with just foam. It was the creamiest beer I’ve ever had. The “cream” stains lined the glass when I was done! Guinness isn’t for everybody---it’s very strong---but when you’re in Ireland you simply must have a pint or two. It’s almost a religion over there! After the pint we headed to King Sitric’s just down the way. We found the door to the place locked! We almost turned around and went back to Dublin but we had a reservation and rang the bell. Sure enough the door was answered and we were seated. The restaurant’s interior was posh, the service impeccable and the food some of the best I can remember in Europe including Dublin Bay prawns and freshly grilled plaice (a flounder type fish from the North Sea).Check out the King Sitric before you go! Their web site is here.

We stayed at a hotel in the heart of the city.  Grafton Street, the big shopping street was just out the front door.  Wondering around in this city is a fun experience dropping in at all the major and minor shops.

Each city has its quirks and Dublin's seemed to be a severe shortage of taxis.  Each time we went somewhere from our hotel, the doorman had to run so far up the street that we lost sight of him.  Needless to say he got nice tips for his efforts!  The cab shortage occurred upon returning to Dublin from a daytrip to Belfast.  There were no cabs in the cue.  It took us the better part of 20 minutes to hook up with a hack.

The trip itself was fun because Cindy had no idea of where we were going heading to the airport.  It was a total surprise!. We flew Delta, as always, which meant a connection through Atlanta. This was before Delta merged with Northwest with massive new service out of Detroit. She KNEW we’d be going through Atlanta--that’s a given for Delta when you’re living in Detroit!!!!!  So that was a no brainer. Once in Atlanta when we headed for our next gate she knew it was an international destination because we headed for terminal-E which is the international terminal. Even as we approached the gate and saw our Lockheed L-1011 TriStar 500 jet sitting there, she still didn’t know where we were going because I took her around behind the check-in desk that had the flight destination listed. Finally I reached in my pocket and pulled out an Irish coin and showed it to her. It was at that point, about 20 minutes before boarding, that she realized we were heading to Ireland for our 25th anniversary weekend trip!

The flight was something very special. On the way over the first officer on our TriStar jet had his usual schpiel and then topped it off with this note: “Our captain tonight is captain James and this is his very last trip with Delta. Captain James joined Delta in 1964 and will retire on his final trip back to the U.S. His wife is on board for this historic trip and I know you’ll want to join us in wishing captain James a happy retirement.”

On our return flight Sunday we had the same captain and it was his very final flight for Delta. A similar announcement came over the PA and when we landed in Atlanta, something incredibly special happened. After turning off the runway onto the high speed taxi exit and then heading toward terminal-E, the first officer came on once again with this announcement: “Ah...ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to add our welcome to Atlanta from the flight deck and hope you enjoyed the ride. As you know, this has been captain James’ very last flight for Delta Air Lines after being with Delta since 1964. Please do not be alarmed by the fire trucks you’ll be seeing on both sides of our TriStar aircraft as this is a traditional salute to a captain on his very final flight.” Just as the announcement ended WOOSH, a blast of water hit my window. It was the start of a water-cannon arch over the jet to salute the captain on his last flight. One fire truck fired from the left side, another from the right side of the jet creating an arc of water over the jumbo jet. Being an aviation NUT this was one of the best parts of the trip for me. I had never heard of such a tradition despite having flown well over a million miles. I could only imagine the sadness in the captain’s heart on this last flight. When aviation gets into your blood it’s something incredibly dear. Pilots don’t go to work--they go flying! And it’s rare when hear a captain complain about his or her job. Sure, they may have gripes with the airline and policies, etc, but when they’re up in the sky, they love every second of it. I'll bet ya $1,000 that the retiring pilot had tears in his eyes because it was his last flight.  I know I would have because I LOVE aviation.  I only got into radio when it was painfully obvious that when I was "up and coming" the only pilots being hired by the airlines were coming' straight out of 'Nam with zillions of jet hours already under their belt.

After clearing customs and immigration there must have been 100 people with signs congratulating captain James on his last flight from his friends and fellow airline workers. A very touching sight!!

Back to Ireland...it sure is green, even in the winter when it’s spitting snow. And one other thing stood out like a sore thumb to us. Dublin is the least ethnic place we’ve ever been in terms of lack of diversity. During our three days (including a train trip to Northern Ireland) we saw only two black people and one middle-eastern type person. All the rest appeared to be pure Irish although after commenting about it on the air, I got a couple of calls from visiting Dubliners who said things were changing with more people arriving there from foreign shores.

I’ve probably really undersold Ireland. After our next trip I’m sure I’ll be beaming just like everybody else who goes there. But for our first taste we came away with the feeling that it was nice but not quite the place we had heard about from all of our friends.

Currency is the Euro.  It used to be the Irish Punt or Pound (NOT on a par with the Pound Sterling from England). Driving is on the left. Youíll need a passport but not a visa. And be careful and donít get sucked into talking politics or religion with the locals. It could land you in a brawl or worse!

  Click here for photos of Dublin

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