Written by Cal & Mary Flegal.
Our recent trip to Ireland unfolded into truly a trip of a lifetime.
The plans for this adventure took place two years ago on a trip to Branson, Missouri with Mary’s brother John Ritchie and his wife Myrna. We (Mary and Cal) planned that vacation and on our return, John and Myrna inquired if we would be interested in another trip with them – to Ireland! We immediately accepted as this had always been a dream of Mary and John. Their father had been born in Ireland and came to this country as a young man in his early twenties in the 1920’s and had never had the opportunity to return. This was to be our ultimate vacation.
Unfortunately, we had to delay our plans until 2002 as Myrna had to have both of her knees replaced in order for her to tour in comfort. We were guided by friends to Classic Travel and had several meeting with Joy in which our trip was tailor made just for us. The first 8 days were a typical tourist planned escapade and included all the sights and stops a first time visitor to Ireland should see. The last three days we were able to rent a car and attempt to locate Mary and John’s relatives and perhaps even find there fathers home farm.
The planned tour was excellent, it all started when we landed in Shannon during a howling gale and rainstorm. Our stops included the Cliffs of Moher – a spectacular seacoast, the city of Dublin, Waterford crystal factory, the ring of Karry and much more. The tour of the Waterford factory was very interesting and should be a must for anyone going to Ireland. Those people making the beautiful crystal are incredibly talented. We were also treated to fabulous Irish food, dancing, accommodations (1st class), and the wonderful friendliness of the Irish people.
Near the end of the tour, we were informed of an air strike which would involve us. What a break! We spent an extra two unscheduled days in Ireland.
We picked up our rental car at Shannon and off we went. If you have never driven on the left side of the road you would be in for a thrill.
We had little to on to go find relatives, just a few hints from a cousin in Canada and in Royal Oak, MI. Mary and John’s father was from the county of Monaghan and we had the name of a town called New Bliss.
This was truly an adventure, driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, staying in bed and breakfast and enjoying the countryside. Our first stop was at a Bed & Breakfast in Cavan. Our host was great, helped us get to our next two Bed & Breakfasts, gave us an excellent tip on a place to eat and suggested when we get to New Bliss, to go to the Post Office.
The next day, after a fabulous Irish breakfast, off we went to find our Irish roots. Upon eventually reaching New Bliss, we stopped to ask some local where the post office was located which they pointed out. Then John asked if they had lived there long to be told “Far to long.” Did they know any Ritchie’s? Sure, about three miles up the road, at which they got in their car and took us – to meet – John Ritchie! As it turned out, he was a second cousin who had no idea that any relatives from Michigan existed. We also visited another second cousin and his wife and heard many wonderful stories of Mary’s and John’s father. We visited the church that he attended, his farm and the location of where he went to school. Our new found relatives were wonderful and some indicated they might come visit us. If they do, we can only hope to be as gracious to them as they were to us.
Now the rest of the story. We left our kin and drove toward Dublin where we were to fly out of Ireland. Our Bed & Breakfast, hosted by Poly and Catherine Bond, turned out to be our haven as we were stranded in Ireland due to the air strike. These people were unbelievable. We used their personal phone to try to make new airline reservations, hotel accommodations, rental car extension and they even had us for an evening meal!
What a way to end our Irish adventure. In addition to all our fun, food, scenery and finding relatives, we found Ireland to be inexpensive when considering foreign travel. Another Irish trip is a definite possibility.