I am so out of practice writing to you here. My last “blog post” was 7 April from Cortona, Italy. As you may recall my computer was hacked in Pompeii and I never was able to post Mari’s brother’s wedding and my sojourn to Herculeum, Pompeii, the Isle of Capris, and the Amalfi Coast. I have notes and images, but have been too busy back in Walpole to write up those experiences, but I will. Since my return, until two weeks ago, my time was spent with The Walpole Players’ production of THE DINING ROOM, and writing several articles for our newsletter, THE WALPOLE CLARION. But now I leave in a few days – FOR REAL – on the Queen Mary 2, crossing the Atlantic and then flying to Ireland to explore Northern Ireland.
I told you about this trip, in a clever way, back on January 8th, never meaning to deceive, but wanting to entertain and educate you, BUT now you will join me on this trip. It was in a Road Scholar booklet (I devour them when they arrive) that I first spotted THE STORY OF THE TITANIC: 100 YEARS LATER – 12 nights including crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 and then 4 nights in Belfast, Ireland. I was intrigued, but in calling and learning the “single supplement” cost the trip was prohibitive at close to $6,000. But I love researching trips. I talked with Cunard Lines and found that the least cost room, even with their single supplement, was a small fraction of the Road Scholar program price, and feeling that the time the program included in Northern Ireland insufficient I knew that based upon my experience in Ireland last year that I could do much better planning on my own. That is when I wrote my blog that you thought was real.
The end of January I was visiting David and his family, and they asked if I would stay with Alex while they were in China the end of May if they went to a conference. “Sure,” I said. But then later than night I got an email from Cunard with a “sale” on the sailing date I was thinking about. “Hey, David and Mari, we need to make a decision!” They decided to skip China, and the next day I called Cunard to book the passage, only to find out that with the “sale” the “single supplement” is 100%. WOW, but I still saved, even though now paying for two. At least the “sale” spurred me to go ahead and book. Sorry, someone missed out on a “free” trip. And to be truthful, with all the trips I have researched I am still getting a bargain on the Queen Mary 2 for 7 days.
So, I am all set to cross the Atlantic. But then comes Italy, and the play, and it is May before I know it, and I am arriving in England with no plans to come home. “Time to work on this,” Ray says to himself. So the beginning of May I call Aer Lingus and buy a ticket from London to Dublin, and then from Dublin to Boston. No deals when you are booking a one-way ticket, but I am still ahead of the game. I asked about including a rental car with my Aer Lingus reservation since I had a great package last year with air and a car, but without a round trip “vacation package” the car became too expensive through Aer Lingus. But I had my rental contract from last year and called the US representative of Dan Dooley Car Rentals and they could not have been nicer giving me a great deal and discount for a car for a week.
I had spent a great deal of time reading the Northern Ireland portion of my Rick Steves’ guide to Ireland, and I had the 4 day itinerary of the Road Scholar trip as a starting point for internet research (gee, maybe I should organize trips for others?). And before I knew it I outlined six full days of activities (you know I “run hard”). Then I started looking for B&Bs, and (thanks to the Rick Steves’ guide) found Pauline in Bangor, about 30 minutes east of Belfast. She even called me a few times and outlined just how I should tackle Belfast and the Titantic sights, and she even booked me on a tour with a great-grand-daughter of a crew member, and secured a ticket for me for the new Titanic exhibit, which she said is booked weeks ahead – I never would have known. So, when I arrive in Dublin I will head up to Northern Ireland by car and the first night I have no reservation not knowing how far I will get. Then I have two nights in Portrush on the Antrium Coast (which is breathtaking) and will get into Derry (Londonderry) one day. I cannot wait to share all the sights with you from that area. Leaving there I will get to Pauline’s B&B where I will stay 3 nights and spend two full days in Belfast before heading back to Boston. Bottom line – my good planning gives me the Queen Mary 2, and almost twice as much time in Northern Ireland than the Road Scholar trip for about half the price. Darn I am good!!!
So, that is the genesis of this next trip, and with luck and internet connection you will next pass the Statue of Liberty with me. I have yet to pack, but have packed and repacked many times on paper (it is getting to be “old hat”). Tomorrow I will watch the Indy 500 (always a tradition of Cathy’s) and putter at packing. Have a nice holiday weekend, and I will be “blogging” again very soon. Yours, RAY