BACK TO THE OLD SOD

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

2017 was a hard year – friends died, good buddies moved away, and I didn’t lose the five pounds I so optimistically recorded on my New Year’s resolutions.  So when I saw a sign in a gift store that said, “Life is Short.  Take the trip.  Buy the shoes.  Eat the cake.”, I took it to heart.  In fairness, I’ve never had an issue with the cake part of the affirmation.  In fact, eating cake is right in my wheelhouse.  But I’m not a good shopper and my travels are limited to occasional trips with my nieces and our summer road trips.  As a life-long knitter I’ve always dreamed of going to the British Isles or Ireland but year after year I put it off.  Until I read that sign.  Exactly a year ago this week I asked a few friends if they would like to go on a knitting trip to one of my dream destinations.  They all responded a resounding “YES!” So next week we’re embarking on a nine day trip to Ireland, which we have dubbed the “Irish Princess Tour”.

Why ‘Princess?’  Because we decided that if we’re going to go, we’re going to go in style.  We are flying from Phoenix to London on a British Air 747 in the Upper Deck.  Riding “upstairs” has been on my bucket list for a long time.  I recall many years ago flying from San Francisco to New York on a 747 but I was “stuck” in business class down below.  This time, I was going to make it to the upper deck or bust!  We also decided that we would rather stay in one location rather than constantly pack and re-pack our bags.  After all, the weather this time of year is still a bit chilly and rainy so numerous layers, requiring lots of clothing options, are required.  We concluded that Killarney is centrally located, has good restaurants, and more importantly, plenty of pubs.  So we selected the Killarney Park Hotel, which I discovered after the fact, is the same hotel brother Bob and his wife Linda stayed in when they visited Killarney.  Apparently the KPH is a Sparrow tradition!

My husband helping me get into the spirit – or spirits.

Once we had our plane and hotel reservations we began to work on what would occupy our time.  Here is where another good life lesson was learned.  There is a very famous knitwear designer, Carol Feller, who lives in Cork, about an hour away from Killarney.  She does many large group classes for the Irish Tourism Board tours and we were a bit disappointed that we could not join in the tour’s classes.  Mustering up my courage, and on the premise that the worst she could say was “no”, I emailed her and asked if we could visit her studio and have a private class for the five of us.  She emailed me back within hours to say not only would she do the class, she will come up to our hotel to do it.  Armed with my newfound confidence in asking strangers for favors, I emailed a yarn store in Dublin that we’re visiting and not only did she respond that she will greet us with tea and biscuits, but that she’s arranged for Kieran Foley to give us a private trunk show.  Okay, by now most of you have glossed over Carol Feller and Kieran Foley so let me put it in terms you might relate to: it is the knitting equivalent of a golfer getting a lesson from Rory McElroy or Padraig Harrington.

One of the wonderful aspects of this trip is that there is another Type “A” on it!  While I arranged the knitting end of things, my friend Patsy worked on many other aspects, most importantly our touring agenda.  We knew that big bus tours are not for us – we’ve all had the experience of people in a group that are so annoying that you spend half your time ducking them.  Patsy did some research on Trip Advisor and found Jack at Killarney Taxi and Tours.   Jack, it turns out, is a treasure.  It’s little wonder he gets rave reviews.  Not only does he have wonderful recommendations, he acknowledged that we might want to spend a “wee bit of time in the pubs” AND he’s taking us to the Skelligs Chocolate Factory.  I love this guy already.

To top it off, well be spending our last night in Ireland at Dromoland Castle.  Yes – a real castle for fake princesses!  At the time we made the reservation the exchange rate between the Euro and the dollar was much better.  If it keeps climbing at the current pace we may be Princess Dishwashers.  Finally, I got my Ancestry DNA results in last week and I’m 20% Irish.  More about that after my brother gets his results and we find out if we’re really related.  In the mean time, for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to  be 100% Irish, visiting its wild coasts, singing “Ireland’s Call” at a few pubs and paying homage to my ancestors.  I’ll keep you posted.  They do have bail bondsmen in Ireland, don’t they?

WAS THE BENTLEY JUST A MIRAGE?

by Bob Sparrow

stregisbentley‘Road Trip’ was the simple headline in a local magazine; those words however are always a clarion call me and thus seduced me to read on.  This road trip was described as ‘one of the world’s most iconic drives’ – cruising the coast on Highway 1 between Orange County and San Francisco, taking in Big Sur and the beautiful coast line along the way.  I read on to discover that this ‘Pacific Grand Tour Aficionado Package’ was being offered by St. Regis Resorts.  As a rule Istregisoc try to stay away from packages with the word ‘Grand’ in them, as it usually refers to the price. Add words like ‘aficionado’ and St. Regis and I can almost feel my bank account wither as I’m reading.  But it gets better . . . or worse.  What makes the tour so grand is not only that it includes two nights at both ends of the trip in St. Regis Resorts in OC and SF, but it also includes a Bentley Mulsanne.  For those who think Bentley Mulsanne is a footman on Downton Abby, it is not; it is an expensive automobile – a very expensive automobile, like $300,000 expensive – if you don’t want any extras.  Undaunted . . . OK, I was somewhat daunted, but I continued reading and finally found what I was looking for . . . the price.  “Prices start at $6,900”, it said.  “Whew”, I breathed a sigh of relief, for a moment there I thought it was going to be up in the $7,000 range.   It doesn’t really say how far that ‘starting price’ will get you, but probably not out of the shadow of the St. Regis from which you are leaving, but I read on imagining myself tooling up Pacific Coast Highway in a Bentley.  I looked good.

When I finished reading the article I paused and wistfully thought to myself, I haven’t made that drive in many, many years and it is beautiful and what a thrill it would be to do it in a Bentley; I have the time and I’m not getting any younger, so . . .

zzyzxYou guessed it, I threw the magazine away and wondered what I was thinking.   But I’d been put in the mood for a road trip, so I decided to create my own package – I called it ‘The Grand Fun Bus to Barstow, Baker and Beyond’ – mostly Beyond.  It wasn’t in a bus, but it wasn’t in a Bentley either that Linda and I headed for Vegas tocdsLOVE celebrate her birthday.  Now I’m not saying that the Zzyzx Road turnoff reminded me of Big Sur or that Baker’s giant thermometer, as majestic as it is, compared favorably to the giant redwoods along the coast, but I’ll tell you this, we had $6,900 worth of fun, maybe $7,000.

The fun included a great room at the Mirage Hotel, an evening at the greatest Irish Pub (and I know my Irish Pubs) this side of Killarney, Ri Ra at Mandalay Bay, a liquid lunch (their specialty) at Margaritaville, where the bartenders put on a show that you’d pay to see, and the Cirque du Soleil LOVE show – an amazing performance that we did pay to see, AND we left town with about a thousand dollars more than we came with.

1000                                                                                                         NOW THAT’S A GRAND PACKAGE !

  I’m thinking that if I can do that 300 more time I can buy that Bentley!