In April 2002, I traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to check out some medical schools (Trinity College, etc) there that I was applying to. In order to make that trip, my travel agent booked me on AA and EI (FWA-ORD-DUB return, April 20-26, 2002). Boy was I ever excited to be traveling to my ancestral homeland Ireland for the first time! (My biological parents had come to Indiana Univ. as students and gave birth to me there, before my adoption by my American family). This was my first international trip all on my own!
Plus, it was my first trip ever on an Airbus.
I took LOTS of phots of my trip to Ireland, including the AA and EI aircraft, but I did not have the photos available to post here (since I am now in the UK and my photos are at home in the US).
Sat. April 20: It was a cool, overcast day as I checked in at FWA's American Eagle counter for my flight. The agent, seeing my passport (with my birthdate on it), asked me cheerily if this was a birthday trip (I would happen to be in Ireland on my birthday, April 25). I said it partially was! What a great birthday gift to give myself (even though it was business)! My bright blue Samsonite disappeared into the baggage room. Since it was not long after the 9/11/01 attacks, there were soldiers armed with machine guns at FWA and the new "ticketed passengers only" rule was in effect. I underwent a more rigorous inspection than ever before (the last time I had flown was in June 2001). It was a 2-hour wait for my American Eagle ERJ flight to ORD from gate 8 upstairs.
Once I arrived at ORD terminal 3 concourse G, I took my own little tour of the whole airport terminal complex (since I had plenty of time before my EI flight out of T5). I snapped a few photos of widebodies through the terminal windows. Soon I made my first-ever trip to Terminal 5. That is some HUGE terminal! The check-in area alone seems as large as a hangar! I checked in at the Aer Lingus desk, made my way to my gate for EI flight 124 to DUB, and decided to kill some time plane-watching and photographing from the terminal windows. I shot my Aer Lingus A330 at the gate, but the jetway partially obscured it--leaving only the wing and tail in view. I met a lot of nice, friendly Irish people in the lounge!
We boarded the beautiful green Airbus, and the friendly red-head F/A helped me find my window seat on the A330's right side. I loved the green, blue, and yellow seats and the nice Irish hospitality shown aboard the flight. My seatmate was a nice, friendly lady (we talked for a while during the flight; she asked a lot of questions about my life with craniofacial anomalies and the book I had started writing; I was glad to be able to share my life with her). We soon departed ORD via the runway just north of T5, took off in a westerly direction, and turned northward for the Great Circle route to DUB. It was getting dark by now. I had a beautiful view of Chicago's nighttime lights out my window. Soon it was dinner time; a delicious Irish meal was served (but I cannot remember exactly what I had--but it was some kind of pasta dish with salad and other things served with it). The only thing I did not like was the sparkling water! It tasted so bitter! (I have never been able to get accustomed to sparkling water, because it tastes so strange to me). There was a movie, but since I had an implantable hearing aid with a big body pack on me, I was not able to use the headphones to hear it with. I don't remember the movie too well, because I hardly paid any attention to it.
It was hard to get any sleep that night on the plane, and the time zones really messed up my body clock so I could not tell how much time had passed.
The next morning I woke up (after my fitful sleep) to a beautiful sunny sky over the cloud-covered Atlantic. After breakfast, we began our descent over the Emerald Isle to DUB. Boy was I ever excited to see the beautiful 40 shades of green of my homeland! We landed at DUB; I was so surprised to see that DUB is such a small airport (it seems smaller even than IND is!). We were marshalled to a remote stand, deplaned via airstairs, and bused to the large round area jutting out the front of the terminal. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I snapped a photo of the front half of the EI A330 and the stairs with the passengers deplaning. Another surprise was the cheery immigration officer who processed my passport and wished me a great stay! I claimed my bright-blue Samsonite (which I had purchased for its visibility) at the baggage reclaim area and breezed through the green Customs channel for non-EU citizens. The terminal was small and easy to get through. By the time I reached the bus stand, it was about 9:30 or 10 in the morning, and it was overcast (and freezing cold). I was bussed to my hotel on O'Connell Street (called Lynams Hotel).
Fri. April 26, the day after my birthday: All too soon, this great trip had to end.
I made it out to DUB from my hotel in good time for my 12:30 or 1:00 pm flight back to ORD (EI flight 125, Airbus A330). It was quite convienient having US immigration pre-clearance at DUB before I boarded my flight. Passengers to the US went downstairs to ground level to wait for their flights. Boarding was via stairs up from the ground floor of the building to the jetway connected to the A330. This time, I had a left-side window seat in coach. It was sad to leave Ireland; it's said that Mother Ireland tugs on the heartstrings of all Her children worldwide. The Muzak that played during boarding (and again upon arrival at ORD) sounded appropriately like a dirge; it was (as I found out later) the Air on the G String. (I have the sheet music for it now for piano, and I play it every so often). Tears were brimming in my eyes. I got my last glimpse of Ireland's wild green natural beauty as we departed DUB and made our way out over the Atlantic. Lunch was just as good as the meals I had on the way over. I took more pictures from the air, as I had during the trip over.
All too soon, we arrived at ORD, taxied to Terminal 5, and docked with the jetway. All of us passengers made our way down escalators to the basement customs/immigration area. I turned in my already-processed immigration card to Immigration, reclaimed my blue suitcase from the carousel, and started for the American Airlines recheck desk to recheck my bag for the connecting flight to FWA. A warm, friendly Irish-native EI station staff lady came up to me and cheerily asked me how I enjoyed my trip to Ireland! What friendly people my fellow Irish are! (I experienced their legendary hospitality so often during the whole week's trip).
It was an uneventful, short American Eagle ERJ flight home from ORD-FWA. I got to FWA very late at night (about 11:00 that night).
I have almost never enjoyed a trip like I did this one! The Irish went out of their way to demonstrate their hospitality and charm while I was on their planes as well as in their homeland. I have such a deep desire to return there again soon! Since I'm now studying in the UK, I bet I'll have that opportunity again soon! It's not quite as far away now.
About the plane: Although I never considered myself an Airbus fan, I sure enjoyed THIS Airbus! The EI A330 is one of the best planes I've ever flown on--rivalled only by the TWA 747 and AA 767 I had flown a few years before.