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I’m almost home.. that’s all I can think of.. I’m almost there.. The moon is casting a wide silvery path  across the freezing cold ocean.  The breeze is blowing icy blasts across our faces.  The distant beam from a lighthouse keeps blasting it’s white light in our eyes and the golden lights are twinkling on the shore which is still so far away.  I feel frustrated.  I want to swim to the shore.  It must be quicker than this.  I can’t stop crying.  I can see the Emerald Isle yet I’m not there yet.  After 52 years.. I’m less than an hour from home..

The day started at about 6am.  Wendy woke up first.  We’re finally used to the time and are able to sleep through the night.  We had a quick shower and then skyped Wendy’s daughter Emma.  My kids weren’t on line and I think we just needed to touch base with home.  Needed to hear that Aussie accent.  Don’t get me wrong.  We’re loving this.. This really is the trip of a lifetime but we needed a bit of home too.

After touching base at home , we went out for breakfast and a walk around Edinburgh.  There were so many bucks and hen’s nights out last night and this morning they all seemed to be looking for the greasy breakfast to rid themselves of the hangover.  We have the best cup of tea since we left Australia and have a great, hot breakfast before strolling the streets.  The castle is packed this morning.  Last night it was so quiet.  This morning tourists from all over the world are swarming over the place.  It’s impossible to get photos without crowds of people today.  But it doesn’t matter.. They all add to the excitement and buzz of the city.

We went for a walk through the park surrounding Edinburgh Castle and saw a monument to Robert Louis Stevenson.  There are a number of park benches there with plaques on them, commemorating people who have passed away.  We find one from a man in South Australia in memory of his wife and are really moved by it. I went to find the monument to the Black Watch as my sister Irene has always been interested in them. IN the park at the castle there is a really old cemetery.  The very first family crypt we came across was Hamilton, our family name.  There were also quite a few graves with skulls and bones on them.  I’m not quite sure why but they were quite unique. I’m sure someone will tell me the significance of these.

As we’re walking around, as much as I’m loving Edinburgh, as much as I desperately want to come back here…. I’m as desperate to get moving out of here because our next stop is Ireland.  Belfast to be exact and while it’s not the part of the country my grandmother belonged to, it’s still Irish soil.  We buy a few souvenirs and have a good look around the shops surrounding the castle.  We  wander down the road a bit to the railway station to check on our tickets which we’d booked online.  Picking them up we realised we were actually running short of time so caught a cab back to the hotel where we’d left our bags in the office.  Trouble was, the office was unmanned, even though they’d said they’d be there.  Finally rustling someone up, we grabbed our cases, bought a few more souvenirs from a shop just down the road and then grabbed another cab.

As we were looking for the cab,I asked a young man who was, I think, working for the council, where the nearest taxi rank was.  He pointed us across the road and offered to take our cases.  We told him we were fine with them, so he went across the road and asked the taxi to wait for us.  People are ever so friendly here.  Getting in the cab we  headed to the railway station to catch the  2.30 train, as advised,  from Edinburgh to Glasgow, then onto Ayr and then Culcairn for the ferry to Belfast.

Somewhere between trying to phone the hostel to retrieve our bags, and the railway station, I lost my phone.. I have no idea what happened to it… but I no longer have a mobile phone.  Anyway, I couldn’t go back and look for it.. I had to keep moving forward as we didn’t have time to stop.  I’ll get another one when I get home to Australia I guess.  On the train, we just relaxed and I caught up on this writing.  We got to Glasgow, grabbed a bite of lunch and hopped straight on the next train to Ayr.. As we got into Ayr, I asked the lady if we were heading in the right direction for the bus to Culcairn.. well yes we were but it left 5 minutes before.. We’d missed it and that was the last bus of the day.

With the same typical friendliness that we’d been experiencing all along the way, she explained that if we caught the next train to Stranraer, we’d get in at 6.50 and we could grab a cab and maybe we’d still make the  7.30 ferry to Belfast.   We didn’t have tickets that far for the train, only the bus, but as the train pulled up, she went and spoke to the conductor telling him what had happened and asked him not to charge us.  When he came around, he said. “Oh yes no worries.. We’ll do our best to get you there.”  How good  and kind are these people?  A young man lifted our cases off for us earlier at Ayr as he didn’t feel we should have to carry them.  This country is full of kind, generous spirited, wonderful people.   When we got to Stranraer it seems they had radioed ahead to have a cab there for us.  He was waiting to rush us to Culcairn, a 10 minute drive to see if we could still get on the ferry.  The ferry boarding closes half hour before they leave but Wendy ran in and explained what had happened so they kept the gate open for us.

We rushed out of the taxi, dragging our heavy suitcases behind us and ran through the terminal where they were waiting to rush us through.. Throwing our bags on to the luggage carousel, we raced down the corridor to the ferry.  We were on.. This was really, finally happening.  Ireland here we come.

We sat down, grabbed a bottle of wine and tried our hardest to just relax and try to forget for an hour that we were actually on our way to Ireland.  We did a pretty good job of distracting ourselves to be honest.  We chatted and sipped our wine and finally ordered a pizza from the kiosk.  Wendy said to me….”have a look at that guy over there.. He looks just like Stuart”.  For those who don’t know, Stuart is my youngest son.  I turned round and nearly fainted with how much this guy was like him.  He was a bit bigger than Stuart but he looked the same, wore similar glasses, had the same haircut and beard, and had all the same mannerisms.

They say we all have a doppelganger or double and this guy was so like Stuart it was really freaking me out a bit. I got a few sneaky photos of him.. then went and told him what I’d done, explaining how much he looked like my son.  His name was Ryan and if perchance he’s reading this, thank you for your graciousness in allowing me to take your photo.

When we knew we had only about ¾ hour to go before we docked, we decided to go outside.  It was then it really hit home.  There was a full moon (or very close to it) shining across the water and the golden lights of the Irish foreshore were twinkling so close, yet so far away.  I was so emotional.  I said “We’re coming home Gargie” and that’s when we both lost it.  We stayed outside in the cold wind letting the tears dry and the emotion settle down before we went back inside.

As we docked, suddenly everyone was lining up to leave and we realised that 90% of the ferry were blokes and not only that, they mostly had footy jumpers on and all were extremely happy and singing at the tops of their voices.  It seems Ireland had beaten France and won the Six Nations Champions football.  They were all ecstatic.  We were coming in a few days before St Pat’s Day and they’d won the football.  Ireland was in a good mood.  Perfect timing for us ..

Getting off the ferry, we went out to find a taxi and were greeted by a lovely taxi driver who came and took our bags from us, opened the door and settled us before putting our bags in…  This seems to be the norm here, unlike in Australia.  They all seem to help and will open doors for you to get in and out.  He drove us to our hotel which tonight was the All Seasons Belfast.

Wow.. this is probably one of the nicest places we’ve stayed to date.  It’s not the most modern, that’s for sure.  The room was basic in furniture but was big and clean and the manager, Theodore was the epitome of Irish hospitality.  He stayed and chatted with us for a while and talked about a myriad of subjects.  He knew all about Aussie rules footy and he was just a pleasure to be around.  He wouldn’t let us carry our bags up the stairs, insisting on taking them himself.  My bag is so heavy, I hate someone to carry it but he wouldn’t have it any other way.  Breakfast was after 8, so it meant we could have a bit of a sleep in.

We probably dozed off at about 11pm, which for me is amazing.  I’m sleeping so well over here.  I usually don’t go to bed before 1am at the earliest, and over here I don’t think I’ve been awake after midnight the whole time.  Tonight we were going to sleep, knowing we would be waking up in Ireland.. We fell asleep with smiles on our faces and dried up tears of joy on our cheeks.

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