Ireland Memories

Thursday, June 5, 2008 - written by Joanne Vician

Thursday morning started out hot and sunny - a harbinger of the great weather we would have in Ireland, even if we didn’t know it at the time.

Ireland pic 2

11:30 a.m. The singers and their families and friends gathered at the Round Barn parking lot in Champaign to meet the Monticello Bus Service coach and our driver Bob. Several Chorale members not joining us on the trip were also there to see us off. We loaded our luggage on the coach, some bought lunch and drinks at the IGA and we said our goodbyes.

12:10 p.m. We pulled out of the parking lot. Ireland here we come!

Jerry Frye, one of the designated census-takers, took the first head count (one of many over the next ten days) getting it almost correct the first time after realizing that he had not included himself. Michelle Montelauro was to meet us at the airport, we were picking up Katrina Cessna on the way and Cindy and Rollie Jean, Woody Chenault and Jean Redpath were already in Ireland, just waiting for us to show up. No wonder the first Chorale traveling body count was a bit confusing!

Shortly after we got enroute, Sandy Finnerty announced that their granddaughter was born Monday June 2, 2008. Her name is Macy Michele Finnerty. Since she and her husband Joe wanted to share something to commemorate the happy occasion, they passed around a large bag of M&M’s since the baby’s initials are MM. Julie gave us all goodie bags with candy, gum, trail mix, peanuts -- and Crystal Light powdered drink mix (which Phyllis McPherron particularly coveted).

Ireland pic 2

Lots of talking, laughing and some wandering about the bus. Julie likes to stroll up and down, checking on her flock, as well as to stretch her legs. It felt - and sounded like - a group of school kids on a field trip at the end of the school year.

12:45 p.m. We passed Buckley but didn’t make a stop at the Lion’s Den. Tsk.

1:45 p.m. We picked up Katrina. She was greeted loudly and enthusiastically by the group.

2:00 p.m. Made a stop at Prairie View Rest stop. Not too much dilly dallying, just enough time to take care of business. And if you’ve ever used the tiny bathroom on the coach, you know why a rest stop is important.

3:00 p.m. The coach pulls into O’Hare International Airport (airport code ORD - which stands for Orchard Place, which was a small community located where Des Plaines is now - in case you ever wondered). We got our luggage and piled into the terminal. Michelle was there to greet us.

Check in and security went pretty smoothly, but little did we know when we got past security to our gate, there would be little access to shops or food. So we quickly took over the waiting area of our Gate and passed the time talking, walking, reading and resting.

7:20 p.m. We boarded our Aer Lingus Flight 124 and were soon rumbling down the runway. (Aer Lingus means Air Fleet). The plane was large - seating was 2, 4, 2 across. We each had our own TV/Video screen in front of us to pick and choose our own TV shows, movies, music, news, etc. Such decadence for those of us used to flying on regional jets from Champaign to Chicago! The Irish flight attendants were already giving us a taste of what was to come. They fed us quite regularly and the 8 hours in the air didn’t seem that long. A little bit of turbulence but nothing scary. I had the pleasure of getting to know Haley Smith, our youngest Chorale traveler and my seat mate.

I watched a couple of movies and decided around 1:30 a.m. I should get some sleep. I dozed for a while and then was awakened around 2:15 a.m. with light flooding the plane. My first reaction was “Why did they turn on the cabin lights?” but soon realized we had been chasing the sun for six hours and had finally caught it. It was a beautiful sunrise, even if it did cut my napping short. Breakfast followed with one last chance to stroll about until we landed at 3:15 a.m. Chicago time, 9:15 a.m. Shannon time in beautiful Ireland.

We got off the plane and headed to baggage claim and through Customs. Shortly thereafter we were thrilled to see Cindy, Rollie, Woody and Jean and our indomitable and fearless tour leader, Christopher Robin Fox! Since it was now Friday, June 6, 2008, I handed over the journal baton to the next writer. Now our Irish adventure had really begun.

Joanne Vician