Another early start to the day for your intrepid travelers with a 4.45 wake up to finish packing, eat, and be out front by half five to meet James our driver. Since we had most of our stuff packed last night, we finished up and dragged our cases downstairs.
Pat, being the good man he is, left us a note letting us know where we could find the fixings for our cereal. We each had a quick bowl, some yogurt, and some orange juice and were on the sidewalk with 5 minutes to spare only to find Jimmy waiting. I quietly soaked in the view of Skelly’s one last time while Jimmy helped us load the bags into his minivan. Then we headed to the Edgeworthstown train station, which had been recommended by all the Skelly’s as the better option as it is closer to Dublin by a stop.
Damn good thing we took that advice — not that we wouldn’t have — because, as usual, we had set a strict schedule for ourselves. You can then imagine our panic as we did some Google searching and realised the train we were on was apparently destined for a station we believed to be further from the ferry port. It therefore came as a surprise when the station we wanted (Connelly) was called as the next stop. Whew.
We hurried to grab our bags and moved with the heavy crowd to the exit, where found the exit fare booth, which had a long queue. After paying for our train ride we exited the station and found the taxi stand, where we found a car waiting and ready. I fired up GPS map on the iPhone and followed along to see how long it would take to get to the ferry; and I found myself agreeing with the cabby’s planned route. We made great time.
Once at the ferry port, we hopped out, grabbed our luggage and made a beeline for boarding. We signed in, checked our larger bags and headed up the escalator to the gate. We slightly panicked again when it looked as though the gate was closed and the door was locked, but the sign said the boat was boarded. The next ferry wasn’t for at least 4 hours; we needed to be on that boat. I ran around looking for someone to ask and only found a coffee stand. Everyone simply waived me to the doors which I already knew to be locked without any explanation.
Eventually another waiting passenger said we were in the right place and they simply hadn’t unlocked the doors yet. A little embarrassed, but mostly relieved by this news, I dropped my shoulder bag with Sarah and entered the gents, where I was startled by another confusing announcement. I quickly washed up and ran outside where only Sarah was standing anxiously. They had announced last call to board! We hurried through the gate, hopped on the shuttle bus, which immediately departed, and then we were the absolute last passengers to board the ferry. But we made it!
Being last to board meant we had poor choices available for seating for the voyage, so we grabbed the first seats we saw together. Like the last trip across the Irish Sea this boat was filled with young couples with young children. Some in the arms of a parent, stepping gingerly as they negotiated the narrow aisles. Others running amok, staring at people as they charged through, and quickly losing their tender balance. Today the Irish Sea is more awake than the last trip, and she wanted to have a laugh.
At first I tried to play Angry Birds on the iPad, but quickly realised that was a bad idea when I started feeling a bit dizzy, so I put my earplugs in, leaned my head on my hand and tried to nap. My theory being that when one is drunk and the room is spinning it is better to fight closing your eyes, but when the room — or in this case, boat — is, in fact, moving, I thought it would be better to close my eyes. And while I was correct with this assumption about closing my eyes, it was the earplugs that were genius.
On the rare occasion I opened my eyes, I saw screaming children (muffled by the earplugs for the most part!) in the arms of a frowning parent. In most cases either the child, the parent, or both had sick on them, and I re-named the previously christened “Breeder Boat” as the “Baby Barf Boat.”
Once the voyage ended we went though customs at Holyhead, and found a cafe to grab a coffee and muffin before picking up our train tickets. The train to Chester was on time, so we boarded, stowed our luggage, found our reserved, forward-facing, seats with a table and settled in. Directly behind us ended up being some drunken Irishman who spent the entire journey messing with the staff, hitting on the women within sight, but mostly taking the piss out of each other. They were annoying, sometimes amusing, but mostly harmless, and we just hoped they weren’t switching trains to London with us in Chester.
The Chester station was packed with people as people did everything they could to get home for Christmas, and it was difficult to get through the crowd to the platform where our train was expected. Again, we stowed the luggage and found our seats on the more posh Virgin train. We both took advantage of the free wifi to check email, and check in with friends. We were hoping to hear from the airline about the status of our flight, but didn’t see anything.
Once the train started moving, Sarah went to the cafe car for a snack and came back with some wine and beer, despite being carded and not having her passport on her. I chatted with an elderly couple behind us who recognised me as the bloke who bumped his head on a low-hanging lamp at the cafe in Holyhead. They too had opted for the ferry and train and abandoned their plane tickets. In front of us two older women seated themselves and they had a sweet little dog with them who was eager to make friends with me. We all introduced ourselves and we found out our new friend was named Lily.
Shortly the elderly couple who had also taken the ferry told us that their flight had been canceled and that ours had to have been as well as the entire Dublin airport had been closed! Sarah and I high-fived each other as we realised how much time and frustration we had saved. Instead of being an hour or so out of London on a train with wifi AND a cute dog, we might have been camped at the airport. Bullet dodged, Christmas saved.
Just after dark we pulled into Euston Station and it was mobbed with people, making it a challenge to get through with our small rolling bags, but we packed ourselves into a Tube carriage and made our way to Pimlico Station. Once on the sidewalk, we fired up the GPS on the iPhone and mapped the flat address where we are staying for the next few days. We got a message from Kaszeta that everyone is at the Cask & the Kitchen having a few beers and to meet them there. We arrived a few minutes later and greeted Kaszeta and Carol and met Kaszeta’s brother Dan and Dan’s wife Sophie.
Carol offered to help us find the flat and the nuances of getting in and out — which includes a fob for opening the gate, taking an elevator to the next floor up, walking along a veranda to the door which is down a few stairs. Once at the door we had trouble working the three sets of locks, but luckily Sophie anticipated this and joined us to help. We got the 2-minute tour, dropped our bags and headed back to the pub.
After a few more delicious, and strong ales, we all made our way to Dan and Sophie’s place in the same complex where we had a lovely meal of bangers and mash. After supper, we got to know Dan and Sophie and caught up with Kaszeta and Carol. We said goodnight, had one more at the Cask & the Kitchen and then retired after our long travel day.