Saturday, August 11, 2007

the land of little green men, part four

day four: i am my own grandpa...or something like that

our tourmates included an 81-year-old man who took copious notes on everything (scribbling first on a newspaper, and then in a spiral bound notebook), and his companion, at first thought to be his daughter, but as it was soon discovered, she was, in fact, his wife. they happened to be seated next to us at breakfast in belfast on the morning of the 21st.

as our other tablemates discussed the excitement of the evening before (apparently, the wedding reception got a little out of hand and rowdiness, chaos, and drunken behavior worthy of lindsay lohan ensued), the daughter/wife (we hadn't worked out the particulars just yet) decided to strike up a conversation.

"so- are you celebrating anything on this trip?"

mama and i looked at each other, and replied that we supposed we were celebrating our recent birthdays.

daughter/wife's reply singlehandedly rendered mama a broken woman for the remainder of the trip:

"oh. normally, when a grandmother and granddaughter are travelling together, it's to celebrate a graduation or something....."

it's a good thing mama wasn't drinking her coffee at the time, because she surely would have spilled it in her lap or shot it out her nose or something. while she recovered, i broke it to daughter/wife that i looked young for my age (most estimates on our trip shaved ten years off, which i'll happily take), and that mama was, in fact, mama, and not grandma.

daughter/wife apologized, and i don't recall having any other conversations with her for the duration of the trip- though, as you'll learn a few episodes from now, that was not the last we'd hear from her.

where, you may ask, was her 81-year-old spouse during all of this? well, though he was sitting just a few feet away, at the other side of the table, i believe he missed the entire conversation, as he was enjoying the view on the other side of his eyelids.

perhaps this contributed to mama's cranky disposition during our ride to derry. (perhaps "perhaps" is an understatement.) at one point, i asked her if we needed to start getting her guinness in "to go" cups, but i'm afraid the idea doesn't seem to have caught on in ireland....which is surprising, considering all the marketing guinness does- right down to guinness underwear. (i passed, mostly because thongs weren't an option.) i am certain that guinness drive-thrus will soon be as common as starbucks is here in the states. the time is coming- mark my words.

carnlough, where the public bathrooms feature both toilet paper and seats, and the postmaster decided my first box back home was full of "clothing left behind on holiday" and therefore was of no value, as far as customs was concerned. i'm still trying to figure out how one wears four canned leprechauns and a few dishtowels, but given enough time, i'm sure i can come up with something fabulous.

we arrived at giant's causeway around lunch time. giant's causeway is a world heritage site, and in case you're trolling for interesting vacation destinations (and who isn't?), here's a list of the others.

there are a couple of legends regarding the origins of giant's causeway- both involving giants. the official version is here, but i prefer our tour guide, anna's, version, which was far more romantic- there was a giant in ireland who fancied a giantess in scotland, and he built the causeway so he could walk across and "get his hands on her".

ah, young (giant) love.

had the camera nuked my pictures from the causeway, i would have been devastated.

in the background, our 81-year-old tourmate, undoubtedly scribbling in his notebook while roaming around the causeway.

after our visit to giant's causeway, we reboarded our "coach" (tourbus), and continued our drive to derry.

a few miles from the causeway, we stopped at bushmills distillery, the oldest legal distillery in europe (dating back to roughly 1608). while the rest of our group took the tour, mama and i wandered around town for a while and took pictures of some rather unique cows that wre grazing next to the distillery. the cows are called "belted galloways", and since my pictures turned out to be blurry images of belted galloway butts, you should probably click on the link, rather than holding out for my artistic rendition....though it must be noted that i'm pretty good when it comes to drawing stick figure cattle.

our next two nights were to be spent at the everglades hotel in derry. i found it amusing that an irish hotel would be named for an american national park, but sleep deprivation had caught up to me by that point, and i was even more easily amused than usual....which is saying a lot, now that i stop to think about it.

upon entering our room, mama and i discovered we were not alone. a stranger (though, admittedly, a rather cute one) was hiding in our shower.

we found out over dinner that not only were we not the only ones to find a stranger in our shower, but as it turned out, everyone else had one the night before, as well.

needless to say, mama and i felt a wee bit rejected. i mean, why was everyone else met in belfast by their own, personal little yellow welcome wagon, yet we were not? we'd taken showers that morning. we'd remembered our deodorant. we had minty fresh breath. we would not stand for this! so, we did the sensible thing.

we (well, actually, mama did the dirty work) told a little white lie. we stopped by the reception desk upon our return from dinner, and we left with not only an additional unadorned duckie, but a smaller one sporting a santa hat (suitable for hanging on the christmass tree), as well.

thrilled with our unexpected bonus, i headed to our room with our two new friends, while mama headed to the bar to make two (three? i neither know nor care, as long as she made it back to the right room) new friends of her own.

in our next thrilling episode: mama and i fight over the lone buddhist in derry, i meet my sister's future husband, and way too many of our tourmates wind up standing in the hotel hallway in their skivvies.

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