The flight from Boston started so early and was so smooth as to be unrecognizable as a transatlantic flight. Yes, there was the bad dinner in little trays (dinner being a thing of the past for domestic flights.) Yes, there was the lovely accent and no-nonsense unflappable tone of the stewardess, reminding me that this was not a U.S. airline. But at a little over five hours, ending at midnight our time (5 AM and daylight here, thank you very much) it was hardly the trial I had dreaded. Yes, Grace freaked out at takeoff. Yes, I had to keep the earbuds in the whole time, and yes, there was the tiniest bit of turbulence to wake me up at 11 PM/ 4 AM, and since the seats were the size of an MRI tube, nobody slept. But once we landed, I couldn't help wondering not if we had gone too far (this has been my fear, for months) but whether we had gone far enough.
As we came an hour towards landing, three hours of black night gave way to a dim glow on the horizon. The sun had been on our left for hours as we flew out of Boston, rather than behind us it as I had assumed it would be. I guess we flew so far North that we hardly left of the sun's purview, or it ours. The sunrise crept in as a fiery red, then orange, yellow stripes fading into a violet then black. It was just a ribbon on the edge of the horizon, but reflected on the silver wing of the plane in the tiniest miniature of the same colors. It was impossibly beautiful.
And Ireland seems (perhaps this is my New Yorker self speaking) almost impossibly accommodating. When we arrived en masse with other bleary, red-eyed travelers, they opened up extra lanes for non-EU passports, and the man at customs joked with me about his recent visit to Brewster, N.Y. ("Hated the place, mind you. Was visiting my sister-in-law. Wasn't the place's fault; just can't stand my sister-in-law.") We gathered up our five enormous bags and set out for what we expected would be a long line at customs, snaked into the proper place, then found ourselves disgorged into a regular old airport lobby without even a passing glance from anyone official. Apparently lines happen elsewhere, and people are treated with disdain elsewhere, but not in Dublin.
There was even a right-size taxi for our five enormous bags, and a nice man to lift the bags, who drove sensibly and brought us to the door of our hotel less than an hour from when we landed. He offered to come back and fetch us at 4:45 AM on Friday when we asked in passing what time we should leave for our 6:20 flight to Nice. When we arrived at 6 AM, an impossibly sweet man at the hotel gave us a room next to the one we had reserved. What hotel on God's Planet Earth ever gives you a 6:00 AM check-in to an extra room they will have to clean later? Without taking so much as a credit card? Mr. Morning Super-Friendly offered us breakfast as early as 7:30, but I asked instead how late we could get there, hoping for a few hours' nap to get us all through. We dragged in at 9:45 eventually for scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
And the children. Did I mention my wonderful children? Sweet on the plane, sweet even as we dragged them off and made them stand around waiting for luggage. A few leftover M&M's and Skittles certainly helped, but I think it is truly the girls that they have become that amazed me the most. Now they are so sturdy that you can let them watch i-pods for hours, have them fall asleep like a pretzel for a few minutes, then wake them up and drag them into strange cities. And they will make jokes about being a meatatarian in the cab on the way to the hotel. Abigail even loved showing off to me how she could crank her own window open. Apparently the girl has never been in a car without power windows, and thought that turning the handle to roll down the window was the coolest Irish invention ever. They loved the little hotel room immediately, and fell off to a deep sleep, each snuggled into single beds with one of us spooning them. And even when we had to leave them in the room during breakfast, then had to wake them up and drag them out of bed at 10:30 local time, they stayed sweet. All day long.
A little later in the day, Abigail started to trip and stumble as she ran down the streets in and out of St. Stephen's Green. Bill's take was that she was desperate to keep herself awake, and it looked a lot like her tired stumbling on the trail to Zealand Falls in the White Mountains. Grace stayed firmly in a fog all day, but it was a pleasant and accommodating fog. She hung back at every occasion to pull out her camera and take photos and video: of the busker on the street dancing to Michael Jackson, of the golden gear globe in front of Trinity College Library, of the large red van bearing down the street towards her. It all interested her, particularly the parts that seemed so quotidian as to be uninteresting.
We took the bus tour, because why not? Why not get in a double decker bus and listen to a perfectly pleasant Irish girl make slightly off-color and alcohol-themed jokes for an hour and a half? Why not jockey for position for an upstairs seat with dreadful German tourists who jump the queue? Why not learn about the history of the Guinness Brewery and St. Patrick's Cathedral and some pub frequented by Bill Clinton and the cost of a penthouse suite at Bono's Clarenden Hotel? There were in fact no deer visible in Phoenix Park today, but Abigail insisted that we take photos of the Irish White House, home of some nice woman president whose name I absolutely did not recognize. She (the president, not Abigail) has been in office for twelve years. When we were done, I still could not find my sorry way out of St. Stephen's Green Park, but I had a vague sense of the relationship between Temple Bar and the various pubs we could visit.
As it turns out, Guinness is awfully damn good, particularly when served in a pub right on the side of the River Liffey or whatever it is called. The chocolate milkshake of a drink was incredible. We shared meals with the girls -- steak for Billy and Grace, and Fish and Chips for Abby and me, and for the first time in months, had no leftovers. Given the fact that the meal still cost about a billion and a half dollars, this minor restraint was likely a good thing.
So here wee are, little family in the extremely expensive and lovely guesthouse at 31 Leeson Close. It's 9:15 in Dublin, 4:15 on the east coast. Girls are snug in their beds, Bill is eating up yet another episode of Star Trek on the ipod, and I'm stretched out on the world's most comfortable armchair/settee combination on the entire planet. It is covered in a nice pumpkin colored Donegal tweed, and for some reason it is my new best friend.
So here is my question for the day: which was more delicious and soft: the smooth Irish linens and puffy duvet on the bed at 6:00 AM when we arrived after a night of no sleep, or my first Dublin Guinness? Now that we have moved to the big family room and all have our own beds, perhaps the feeling of falling into a King size with the same sweet linens, and the Dublin Guinness in my gut will trump them both.