Quilt Tours to Ireland are a Thing!?!

Posted by Rona Herman on

For those that don’t know yet, I Went to Ireland!

Today marks exactly 2 years since my trip to the Emerald Isle and yet every moment is still fresh in my mind. I wanted to bring back my posts from my old blog about the trip and share with you all our crazy adventures! Who knows, maybe they’ll inspire your next trip!

In May of 2017 I attended a local quilt guild meeting where our guest speaker was master quilter Mark Sherman. Looking back I’m convinced our acquaintance was kismet. First, this was the only guild meeting I was able to attend in 5 years of living in North Carolina. It would be another year and a half before I actually became a member.

Mark Sherman in Ireland
Mark and I on the plane about to take off from New York headed across the pond!

At this meeting in 2017 Mark had an advertisement for his upcoming Craft Tour to Ireland where he would unveil his new Book of Kells quilt. To be honest, I picked up that piece of paper with no real belief I would be able to make the trip. In fact, when I brought it up to my husband I was half joking. But, his quick response floored me. “When do you leave?”

Mark Sherman Book of Kells quilt
Mark’s Book of Kells quilt surrounded by our ReMarkable Traveling Quilters group inside the Library at Trinity College in Dublin

Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to travel to Scotland and Ireland; more specifically, the castle Eilean Donan in Scotland and the Hill of Tara in Ireland. However, in my mind it was always a “one day it might happen.” This day, my husband was actually telling me to go. We had a little money set aside and he was literally making one of my life long dreams come true. I definitely found a good one! 

I’m on my way!

Flash forward to September 3, 2017. There I was, sitting in the Charlotte airport about to make my way up to New York, then across the great wide ocean to visit the land of my heritage. I’d love to tell you my stomach was full of butterflies or another romantic scenario, but the truth is I was pretty calm. The weight of the day hadn’t truly hit me yet. I was almost surprised at how not elated I seemed. I was going to Ireland for crying out loud! 

What is the 40 shades of green?
The 40 Shades of green

While contemplating my strange emotional status, I heard a woman next to me mention ‘Ireland’. Curious… “Are you going to Ireland?” By golly she was! She and her 2 daughters were spending 3 weeks back packing across the Emerald Isle. How amazing would that be?! We had a lovely chat telling each other about our different tour plans and even working in a quilt discussion. Now I was starting to get excited, just in time for boarding call.

First stop: New York!

My first stop was in New York. This was my first time flying into JFK and it was wonderful… mostly. Because my flights were booked separately, I had to claim my baggage before re-checking into Aer Lingus for the hop across the pond. 

The Big Apple!

People Watching is the best pass time!

Have I mentioned my love for people watching? Let me tell you my friends, standing at baggage claim in Kennedy airport is a people watchers dream. The first to catch my eye were 2 kids around 7(ish) years old using their rolling luggage as bumper cars. Oh to be that young and bored again. The little boy definitely lost to his sisters advantage. Her legs were longer. She could whip around him with the quickness and tag him from behind. His little head would jerk around with a playful annoyance while showing her that “I’ll get you yet. You just wait!” face.

Veering my eyes slightly to the right I noticed the sweetest little old couple sharing a doughnut. Such a simple task conveyed the years of familiarity in their relationship. Without a word he knew to give her the smaller half because she didn’t need that much sugar. Her grin was the tell tale sign she knew he shouldn’t eat a whole one because he didn’t need all that sugar either. But, neither one would miss their sweet treat shared with the one they love.

Cliffs of Moher

What was that giggling? I turned around to find a sweet woman, maybe in her 70’s(?) staring at her cell phone and just giggling away. I imagine her texting her friends back home catching up on all the gossip around the group. Maybe their own ‘Blanche’ was regaling them with news of her latest conquest. Or Shelly’s husband was caught ogling the young things at the pool again.

Traversing the Island that is the JFK Airport

Finally my bag arrived and it was time to head for Terminal 5… International flights. If you are ever flying overseas from JFK, bring your walking shoes. ‘The great 5 mile hike of Queens, with sights and sounds of local life amongst the savages.’ At the end of your journey you will discover… Men In Black headquarters.

Men in Black headquarters – aka – Terminal 5 at JFK

Honestly, you come around the last bend to find an escalator (or stairs) down to a large room filled with kiosks and aliens (fortunately, the human kind). Seriously though, it definitely felt as far separated from the main airport as its location. And, of course, my check in was all the way in the back. I mentioned the hiking shoes, yes? One side note: Jet Blue must practically own Kennedy airport with the number of kiosks and terminals in this place.

When I finally reached the Aer Lingus ticketing counters I discovered another 2 hour wait. They apparently don’t open before 3 PM. Thank goodness I had a decent book to read (Yay for Kindle). 

What is aer lingus?
Aer Lingus – that big beautiful shamrock in the sky!

As I approached our gate I spotted the man of week, Mark. Sitting next to him was most of our remarkable group of 14 with whom I’d be trapped… er… spending the next 8 days. There was Kathy and Trish, newly acquainted friends from Florida; Pilip, Brian, Dana and Beverly, two couples and long time friends also from Florida; Gloria and Cecilia, long time friends from Indiana; Peggy and Frank, another couple from Florida (sensing a theme?); Mark, Anthony and myself. My roomy Jeanne would meet up with us in Dublin as she had just finished a cruise around the Mediterranean, poor thing. So, this was our group. For better or worse, we were on our way. Ireland would never be the same.

Ross Castle in the Killarney National Park (15th century)
‘On the One Road’ by the High Kings

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