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Ireland Trip Day 3: Saturday

Posted by julival on August 18, 2004

I need to keep these things going at a good pace because things are starting to get fuzzy. For instance, I totally forgot to mention that Friday night, before his parents took him away from the party, our little friend wee D had one final round at the Internet Circle. *l* He ran over to tell us goodbye. But instead of the expected attack, he grabbed Alec’s head and kissed him right on the top of the head. Then he did each person the same in turn, all the way around the circle. Even the Bad Man! He was trying to make another go around when Da grabbed him and carted him off.

Saturday morning we got up in time to get showered before our big breakfast. The restaurant is down in the basement of the building. It’s not very big, but it looks bigger because there is a window well that lets in lots of light and a huge mirror on the wall opposite the windows, which optically doubles the size of the room. Tony had set up a long table in the middle of the room for all of us to sit together. Wishmaster and Jana had joined us from the Hostel (just a block or so away) and the Bad Man had come up the hill from his hotel, as well. So we had a table for 10 *g* This was our breakfast set up every day for 4 days, until we started losing freaks. It was sad when we got reduced to a small table at the back on wednesday.

Breakfast consisted of both a ‘continental’ style buffet with cereals (muesli), fruit, yogurts and juices, and our choice of hot breakfast. He brought us out tea and toast each day, too. And we always had a choice of marmalade or his mom’s homemade jam of the day. It was raspberry the first few days. Yum! I think we all went for the hot breakfast that first day just to see what it was like. It was HUGE. Since no one knew what there was to choose from at that point, he just brought us all the full plate – a pile of scrambled eggs, tomato, mushroom, bacon, sausage, some freaky blood sausage (which I declined to try), and three kinds of toast! I think there were scones on the buffet, also. I know there were on other days. The potato bread toast was my favorite. It’s thin, but dense – has a really nice flavor. I think we were all quite stuffed after that meal. I know I was, anyway.

Then I had to abandon all of them to their own devices while I drove over to the B&B just outside town where Uli’s family and bridesmaids were staying. It was time for my dress fitting and final alterations. I’m not really sure what they all did that morning – someone else will have to fill you in. But I had a not too scary drive up the narrow twisty hill and uli’s directions got me there without incident. Yay!

When I got to the B&B, uli came out to greet me and take me up to the sewing room. This was actually her parents’ bedroom, but it looked a lot more like a seamstress’ workspace. *chuckle* there were dress parts everywhere. I can’t wait for you to see the photos of the dresses! Absolutely gorgeous! I really hope uli gets some scanned and up that show more detail than the ones Jeff and the boys took on the wedding day. You need to see all the details of Uli’s dress and coat and the fishtails on the backs of the bridesmaids’ dresses. Heavenly!

Uli’s mom was busily pinning another bridesmaid up when I came in. The bustline needed some work on that one – I think it was Karyn’s (note, I’m probably not going to spell any of the Swedish bridesmaid’s names correctly, but I’ll just type what they sounded like and hope no one gets too fussed about it.). Also, it turned out that there was major reworking to do on uli’s dress because there had been a miscommunication on the sleeve length and bustline. There were a lot of…looks…exchanged between mother and daughter over that *chuckle* but it all got worked out in the end.

The dresser in the room was piled with a borrowed sewing machine (uli’s mom had been using an old one of hers that she’d given to uli previously – so it was already in Ireland – but it died on Friday, apparently. Thankfully, the b&b owner had one that they were letting her use. It was a little bit of a cranky machine, but useable.), a heavy duty steam iron, and tons of pins and scissors and notions. The bathroom was serving as the changing room for uli and myself, but the other girls kept scurrying down the hall to their own room to change.

When it was my turn, uli’s mom did a lot of eyebrow lifting at how much she had to take things in and not let things out. She’d not believed my measurements. Hmph. The skirt was fine (other than the hemming, of course), but the top (the dresses were two pieces) needed serious surgery – and sleeves. She’d left them off til she could confirm the measurements. I’m just not as busty as your average Swedish chick, apparently *l* At one point, my vwiking walked by where I was – he wouldn’t make eye contact. Uli told me that his youngest daughter had scolded him for his behavior the night before. Poor vwiking. :-( And Uli’s dad showed up around noon, wearing sunglasses *lol* he had a bit of a headache and had been out walking to get some fresh air while all the sewing was going on.

Uli had an appointment to get a manicure at one o’clock, so we were trying to get everything finished in time to leave for that. I was going to give her a ride back into town, so I just hung out and watched all the proceedings after my pins were in place. There was much chatter in Swedish. Uli’s mom was really nice about periodically translating things for me, as was Ava (when she was in the room). Ava (long ‘a’ sound) is one of Uli’s cousins. She has very short blonde hair – it’s a really cute cut. I’m not sure exactly how old most of the other girls were, but I’d say Ava must be in her early to mid-20’s. She’s married, but her husband is an Englishman living in Washington, DC. He’s lived in the US since he was child, but his parents never got him citizenship, and now with the new tighter immigration laws, he can’t leave the country or he won’t be able to get back in. And she can’t officially live in the US yet, either. So she’s back and forth. Bleh. But her English is excellent as a result of her situation. She has a younger sister (the one who fussed at my vwiking) who is 14 and also speaks very good English, but is shy about using it.

The other three bridesmaids were Eda (it’s a long ee sound, might be spelled with an I or even a weird Swedish letter, I have no idea *l*), Karyn, and Louis’ baby sister. Eda might be late teens or early twenties. I think she’s another cousin, but I’m not sure. She has long wavy brown hair. Karyn is also around that age and has medium length blonde hair (they said it was green-tinged due to chlorinated water just prior to the wedding, but it didn’t look green to me). And, of course, louis’ baby sister (we’ll call her wee lass) is the same age as Rob (10) and an absolutely beautiful girl. Hopefully I will not get in trouble for putting up photos with her in them. I’ll take them down if Himself O’Connor objects.

So after a couple of hours or so of trying things on and watching other people try things on and watching uli and her mom do their little tension dance *chuckle* and listening to lots of Swedish, I headed back to town. Uli went off to get her nails done and I went back to the guesthouse to find my ducklings.

They weren’t hard to spot, as they had taken over the little front room/lounge at the guesthouse for a mandatory game of phase ten. *l* what would a freakout be without it?! And they had even introduced my children to it! When I got there, only Alec was playing, though. Apparently, they had tried to include Rob, as well, but he was getting a little too much ‘help’ from his dad and he got frustrated and clearly needed to do something else for a little while. I think he and Jeff went on walkabout. I took several photos of the game. I think Alec was on phase 7 or 8 when I got there (the one with all the color matches) and doing not badly at all. Iirc, Jana was leading.

Here they all are: phase ten 1, phase ten 2, phase ten 3, phase ten 4, (jani’s hand. Don’t ask me WHAT he was going for. I can’t make sense of it. I think he needed me to use the one power…) phase ten 5, (if you look closely, you can see that there are postcards on the table. I made them sign so we could get them mailed out. But we didn’t end up accomplishing that til Tuesday. Heh.)

Obviously, I was not involved in the game, nor was Jeff. Rob was having fun watching and making remarks and helping people cheat, I do believe. This was the time during which my children became known as the Miller Spawn. They were quite proud of the title. Since they seemed to all be getting along fine, and since I knew the game wasn’t going to be over anytime soon, I asked if anyone cared if Jeff and I went off to grab a bite to eat and do a guided walking tour of town that was offered up at a visitor’s center near the guesthouse. They all assured us that would be cool, so off we went. After leaving lunch money for the kids and some stern admonitions about the revenge that would occur if too many embarrassing stories about their parents were shared. *nods* one has to be firm.

Jeff needs to keep moving or he goes a little stir crazy. He also has a great fondness for history. I like architecture and site seeing. So this little walking tour was just the ticket. We grabbed a couple of BLT bagel sandwiches at a little bagel joint across the road from the guesthouse and ate them on a bench outside the visitor’s center (we could have had chips with our bagels, but declined). The wasps came to visit and try to exact their own revenge for my…capture…of one of their brethren the night before, but they were fortunately unsuccessful.

Our walking tour was led by this wonderful little old irish lady who’s been doing the tour as volunteer work for years and years. She has a great sense of humor and a wealth of anecdotes about the town. It was a very small group for the tour - just myself and jeff, an older mother and daughter from Belfast (the mother had grown up in Armagh and kept interjecting her own little amusing remarks from time to time), and a young man who was doing a summer’s study at the Armagh Observatory (apparently a highly regarded place to study astronomy).

I think we spent about an hour and a half wandering up and down the hills seeing the various historic buildings and hearing all the stories behind them. We passed the freaks in the street around the midpoint of the tour and checked to see if the boys wanted to join us, but they were having too much fun with their new friends *g*.

I’m not going to describe the whole tour – that would get more boring than usual, I think, so I’ll just hit the highlights. Obviously, the churches were the key points of the tour (three of them *w* ) Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, and the First Presbyterian church. Oh wait a minute… I think there was a Methodist church in there, too. But that messes up my threes. Bah. Anyway…there was a lot of blah blah blah about this and that bishop and the fact that St. Patrick himself had chosen the highest hill in the area to build the first great Christian church in ireland. It was taken from pagan tribes – theoretically a Queen Macha once ruled on the hill. I guess the church has been sacked by the Vikings and rebuilt quite a number of times over the centuries. Its current incarnation is a relatively recently restored gothic structure with a squared off tower (tower not in my photos).

According to our witty tour guide, the men tried to have a tall spire on the top, but the ladies of the parish were having none of that. She gave us a look and said “I’m sure you all know about men and their spires.” I assured her that I certainly did. *weg* Here are some photos of the St. Pat’s C of I: protestant church 1 (the front entrance. The squared off tower is on one side.), protestant church 2 (lower view of the front entrance), protestant church 3 (a view over the grave yard and out over the city), protestant church 4 (the rose garden and the building across the lane from the church, where retired clergy’s families lived, iirc. Might be wrong. Something like that.) protestant church 5 (one side of the church, showing the gargoyles.), protestant church 6 (a closer look at the gargoyles.).

We spent a lot of time up in the area of the C of I church and saw their oldest public library (holds the original volume of Gulliver’s Travels, which was written in the city), a building that used to be an infirmary (where, our guide informed us, only wealthy nobility could afford to receive treatment), and some other churchy buildings. An interesting thing about the former infirmary – it’s now been converted to an “integrated college”. College over there means 11-18 year old kids. Sort of middle and high school, I guess. Integrated means Catholics and Protestants mixed. It sort of slowly dawned on me as she was telling about the school that she was talking about religious integration rather than racial. It’s still very odd to me. I understand that it’s an important and really critical part of the culture over there. And truly, it’s always been more about politics than theology. The protestants are traditionally british loyalists, while the catholics are for united Ireland. But it’s so weird to me because we’re not even talking about aetheists and Christians. We’re not even talking about Jews and Christians or Moslems and Christians or Jews and Moslems. The two faiths started out almost identical – the sanctity of matrimony being the initial dividing issue. Silly king. Politics. That’s what it is. Us and Them. Every culture must have a Them to stand against, I guess. It’s really horrid that people have to be maimed and killed over it. (/commentary)

On with the tour! Next stop: St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic! *lol* It has TWO spires and sits directly across a little valley on another high hill. You can see the façade of each church from the hill of the other. I’ll only show one photo of it today – lots more to follow on the wedding day. St. Pat’s RC (absolutely gorgeous!)

We also wandered down to “the mall”. I kept thinking she was taking us to ‘the mile’ because of her accent – very broad – but it became evident when we got there that it was actually ‘the mall’. It’s a rather large grassy parkland of sorts in the center of two long avenues. The courthouse is at one end and the jail at the other. (the jail used to be out closer to some bishop’s palace, but he had it moved because he didn’t like having a view of the hanging corpses while he was eating breakfast.) We got various bits of information about where various bombs had gone off over the years due to The Troubles. One bomb did a fair amount of damage inside the courthouse, but fortunately didn’t damage the exterior façade much at all.

There is a beautiful row of Georgian homes along the avenue one side of the mall. Each door is painted a different brilliant color and they have sweeping staircases down the street for the ladies to descend in their ball gowns. The mall itself is now used for cricket and football (soccer) playing fields. It also has some war memorial statues. That first Presbyterian church (which isn’t actually the first one in armagh, just names itself that) is on the other avenue, across the mall from the houses. It has an impressive spire. *g*

That was the end of the tour. When we returned to the guesthouse, we discovered that the freaks had not actually been finished with their phase ten game when we ran into them on the street. They were only on lunch break. Someone else will have to tell you all about that. All I know is that it involved a door to Narnia and some Pooh Chainsaw massacre deal. Alec said something about piglet and porkchops…

Anyway, we found them all up there in our room, still playing phase ten! And alec was still on the same phase he’d been on when we left! I sat and watched for a little while, but I was getting sleepy and out of sorts, so I finally kicked them all out and had a rest break. We were sort of waiting around for Uli to call, as well. She had said something about wanting us all to come out to the house, but by the time she called, she was making plans for all of us to go to dinner. Louis had been in Dublin all day with his dad at the highly disappointing Armagh gaelic football match. It was the start of some sort of tournament I think and their near rival (in the next town over) was playing a game the same day. Fortunately, both teams lost. Well, you know what I mean.

Uli was planning on having all her Swedish contingent go to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant not far from our guesthouse. We were invited to come along, so I rounded up the ducklings (or maybe jeff did) and we waddled on down to the restaurant. Uli pointed out to us that it was located in a protestant section of town. We were supposed to be able to tell by the red, white and blue pennants stung on lines outside the window. I guess that’s british loyalist colors.

We ended up at three tables in the Chinese restaurant. One of Swedes, one of freaks and one of Millers and Uli. *l* she was an honorary miller for the evening. Our table split a very tasty sampler platter of appetizers while dk encouraged everyone to use chopsticks. Oh, and the cheeky Dutchman somehow ended up sitting with the Swedes again. He said he knew they were speaking to him when they spoke English. *snort*

It’s important to mention here that we were given a choice of fried rice, steamed rice, or chips with our meals. *lmao*

The Swedish table got their entrees first and were already on dessert while the rest of us were finishing our main course. They all had bowls of lovely ice cream. So the freak table and the miller table decided they had to have ice cream, too. The miller table quietly ordered and received their ice cream (uli got fried bananas and I skipped dessert). But for some reason…the freak table had some problems getting their ice cream. I can’t imagine why. *looks almost convincingly puzzled*

Now the irish cousins were theoretically supposed to be throwing something called a Hen Night for Uli that night. There had been various rumors about it going around for a few weeks, but (possibly due to everyone’s hangovers from the night before, possibly due to the grief over armagh’s football loss and the knowledge that the pubs would be full of mourning cranky drunk Irishmen) that didn’t actually materialize. So we took matters into our own hands and decided to just all go hangout in the lounge at Uli’s bed and breakfast. She had some wines and some rum (or maybe it was vodka) and some Bailey’s, so we were good to go.

Uli rode back with her family and alle, jana, dk, and I got a cab out to the B&B. we didn’t really want to try driving it at night or if we were going to drink at all. The cabstand was really nasty, but we got a cab pretty quickly. I was really surprised to find out that the cabby didn’t know where the b&b was. It’s not a particularly large town. But since I’d been there, I was able to give him directions. He was amused by watching me count out my pounds sterling to pay him (I hammed it up just a bit to make it more fun *w*). When he handed me my 50 P change, I was genuinely surprised by how much larger it was than the one pound coins, so I gave him a wide eyed “oh! It’s BIG!” *weg* and asked if he’d be able to find his way back to get us later. He said he would.

Here are some photos of all of us enjoying each other’s company, getting to know one another better, and drinking. *g* hen night photo 1 (from left to right – Karyn, Ava’s little sister, and Karyn’s bf – more on him later) , hen night photo 2 (Eda, Ava, Karyn) , hen night photo 3 (jana, dk, uli, and all our booze) , hen night photo 4 (the sister, the bf, alleeeeeeee, and jana *g*)

Now, about the bf. *waggles brows*

He was not there til late in the game. Initially, it was just us hens and chicks. This was where I learned the story of Ava’s situation (English spouse in DC) and a bit about the other girls. It seems Eda, Ava’s sister, and Karyn are all big horse fans, like Alle. They had a big convo about riding and horses in between my interrogations of the Swedish girls. When I asked Karyn if she was married, too, she colored nicely and we found out that the tall guy that had been lurking around was her boyfriend. There was some amusing conversation about how he was the flavor of the week or something and I told her I’d keep him at least a month. I asked if he was to be the evening’s entertainment *weg* that got an even better blush.

Later in the evening, he wandered in to ask her a question and after they’d talked privately for a few minutes, we asked if he was ready yet. *snicker* I’m not sure who explained it to him, but he grinned from ear to ear. There was no Chippendales dancing, but he did sit down and visit for a little bit. I think he might have been game if we’d pushed it, though. The issue *gives you all a look*

When it got late, Uli just told Louis to come up and get me and alle and jana and dk and drive us home rather than messing with a cab again. He’s a good chauffeur.

As he was dropping us at our guesthouse (after depositing jana at hers), we were just telling him the story of our cabbie. He was just pulling away from the curb when DK reiterated the part about me saying “it’s BIG”. Then she said “I’ll bet he’s never heard THAT before.”

Alle and I nearly fell on the pavement laughing. We were laughing so hard that Rob heard us from up on the second floor and told jeff we were home. We were laughing so hard that we drew the attention of a passing car of Irishmen. They yelled something cheeky at us (I forget what) and that bad kitty flipped them the international symbol of irritation. Then we all went up to bed. *l*