There and back again.

Where to start.

PART 1.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that we’ve been working on getting Frank a visa to live and work in the States.  As much as we love Ireland, we’ve felt the call back to America for several years now, and we’d love to go back there with Evelyn and embrace certain opportunities that are easier to find there than here.  About the time Evey was just a few months old, we started the application process.  This entailed massive amounts of paperwork, locating old documents and records, doctor’s visits, immunizations, and lots and lots of money.  Every hurdle we jumped only led to bigger, more confusing challenges.  So, we’ve been ticking away at it for over two years.

Rose of Sharon in full bloom.

About three weeks ago, Frank got a call from the US Embassy in Dublin.  They told him his visa had been approved! This was wonderful news.  Except that he had to use it by August 3rd.  At that stage, we were looking at having to be Stateside in 2 1/2 weeks’ time or start over, including paying the fees again.  We were also told there was one additional paper we had to have renewed, one that usually takes several weeks to get.  So we just kind of kicked into high gear, asking favours of family and friends and strangers, started researching flights and frantically running around trying to figure out what might happen in only a few days time.  I was saying a lot of prayers, but I was also practically having heart palpitations every day over the instability of our immediate future.

This plaque at the Irish Famine Memorial in Boston included the poignant words of local Irish poet, John Boyle O’Reilly.

Thank God – it worked out at the last minute, as these things usually do.  Frank got the extra papers sorted and we found out more information from the Embassy.  We learned that he could fly to the States and activate his visa and then come back to Ireland for a few more months to tie things up here.  We also learned that I had to go with him as his main sponsor.  On Thursday morning the 28th of July, the Embassy called and told us Frank’s visa was ready and waiting.  So, while he took the train to Dublin to collect the papers, I booked the cheapest flights I could find – to Boston, of all places – and by Friday morning the 29th, we were on a plane headed West to the USA.

Can I just say it?  STRESS.  Absolute pure manic stress.

Frank and me at the allotments of Fenway Victory Gardens, part of the “Emerald Necklace” of city green spaces in Boston

However, once we hit the ground in Boston, or maybe about an hour afterwards, all was well again.  The immigration officials could not have been more helpful – and most of them of Irish descent.  We now can say for certain we know what’s going on, after two years of guessing and pulling our hair out.  I’ll share more details in the months to come, but the general plan is to move back to the USA in the Spring, after we have saved up some money here and tied up any loose ends.  We have a particular destination in mind at least for the first while, and then we might look to settle elsewhere once we’re a bit more prepared and settled back into the American way of life.  Funny, isn’t it?  I’m just now figuring out how to settle into the Irish way of life.  I guess my blog name will have to change in about 6 months or so… but we’ll cross that bridge later.

PART 2.
We traveled to Boston because the tickets were the most affordable via Air France, the itinerary was the easiest for us to manage, and because we have friends and family there.   Turns out my aunt and uncle were away that week, which was a shame, but we spent four wonderful days and nights visiting with my friend, Morgen, and her husband, Rahul, who live in Arlington.

Frank’s first-ever cannoli, lovingly boxed up by a soft-spoken Italian mama at Mike’s Bakery. Yum!!!

First of all, I have to say I really enjoyed flying with Air France, for the most part.  There are so few good airlines anymore, and I felt like Air France is really doing something right – decent full meals, champagne and wine on request at no cost, friendly staff, pretty comfortable seats, good flight times, easy take-offs and landings, etc.  We did have a problem with our personal touch screen TVs, but I think that’s pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. 🙂

I should also interject at this point that we could not afford to take Evelyn with us, and Frank’s parents were most gracious about minding her for  five days and nights!  We missed her a lot, but it was also special to spend some time together, just the two of us.

The mix of old and new architecture in Boston’s Financial District

So, we arrived at our friends’ door at about 10 p.m. and, while they were out for the evening, we were welcomed into an oasis of comfort and calm.  Their sweet 1920’s house was better than any B&B I’ve ever stayed in.  We helped ourselves to tea, fresh peaches, chocolate chip cookies, and showered in luxury and put ourselves to bed in what can only be described as a cloud on a frame.  Morgen had even left us white bathrobes and little bars of chocolate, just like a 5* hotel.

The Granary Burying Ground holds the remains of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere and the victims of the Boston Massacre, among others.

The next few days are a blur.  We ate and drank and laughed and slept.  We went to the movies – twice (the cinemas were so well-equipped and comfortable, it was bliss)!  And we WALKED.  It’s funny because whenever Frank and I go someplace together, we always intend to take it easy, maybe check out a neighbourhood and hang around… but then we just keep discovering cool little streets and shops and alleyways, and before you know it we’ve missed dinner and our feet are screaming up at us!  This trip was no different.  We went all over the Financial District and Old Boston, the Freedom Trail, Boston Harbour and the Waterfront, Chinatown, Little Italy,  Beacon Hill, Fenway, Brookline and more.  We didn’t go into Harvard or Cambridge or any of the colleges really, just passed by, but I think my head was too fuzzy for academics.  The weather was nearly perfect – warm but not hot, mostly sunny, occasional showers of warm summer rain that didn’t put us off one bit.

The lovely Public Garden, created in 1837 and famous for its pond and Swan Boats, has long inspired writers and artists including Robert McCloskey (“Make Way for Ducklings”).

I have been to Boston three times before – once, on a brief family trip in May and twice during college for Harvard National Model UN, which is always held in February.  I love Boston – the history, the charm, the atmosphere.  Frank had never been there before, and he, too, felt like it was a very nice city to visit, and perhaps even live in.  He really grooved on the historic aspect of the place.  And even though he knew it has a rich Irish heritage, I think he was still surprised at the amount of Irish folks (first generation and beyond) we met as well as the wide array of Irish pubs across the city!  I sort of chuckle when I think of how he ordered an O’Hara’s Stout our first night out and on another occasion opted to stop in to a downtown Irish pub when we were tired and thirsty from walking.  Our barmaid was even from Donegal! I guess you can take the paddy out of Ireland but not the Ireland out of the paddy. 😉

The town of Brookline especially took our fancy. I found out later my mother had lived near here in college.

All in all, it was a lovely, brief, trip for us.   It’s exciting to finally start planning where and when we’d like to move and it’s always a treat for me to wander American grocery stores again.  Funny how I’d forgotten that ice cream takes up an entire freezer aisle, with every flavour and variety you can imagine, from dairy free to low-fat to double-churned… ahhhh.  Reminded me of my grandma and how much she loved her ice cream every night.  We were extra lucky and had ice cream every night as well, but it was homemade amaretto ice cream from Morgen!  So delicious!  Morgen and Rahul are also vegetarians, so their regular meals were all new to me (broccoli curry omelets for breakfast?!?) – but I have absolutely no complaints!  Morgen is a whizz in the kitchen and she even sent me home with a big bag of exotic spices to try out.

Beacon Hill was beautiful, old, quiet and expensive!

PART 3.
We boarded our flights home on Tuesday night, due to arrive in Dublin Wednesday evening.  We were really tired and suffered through the long flight with no sleep before we landed in Paris for a 7 hour layover.  It was all a bit surreal – from the man who passed out by the toilets on the flight (and whom no one, I might add, save Frank, got up to help), to the seeing eye dog who took a very large squat in the middle of Charles de Gaulle Airport, to the oblivion of his owner… and then we caught the train into Paris’ city centre, even though we had sort of lost the will to live.  I figured, why not find a park and lie on the grass for a few hours instead of wandering an airport and trying to relax on hard plastic seats?  So we mustered all our strength and I’m glad we did.  We only had one busker on the train, and he was playing a comb!!! I guess the Recession has even hit Paris’ vagrant musicians. 🙂

We crashed here on the lawn outside the Jardin des Tulleries in Paris. Couldn’t have picked a better way to kill a few hours.

Of course, Frank and I still did way too much walking because Paris is like temptation island. We couldn’t help ourselves!  We got off at Chatelet Les Halles with the intention of going straight to a cafe or a garden, and instead we wandered far down the winding streets peeking into pet shops and plant stores while looking for shade from the beating sun.  It was definitely the hottest day I’ve experienced all year (over 90 degrees F at one stage), and very different from our last visit to Paris in February 2009!  We wandered through the grounds of the Louvre and collapsed on the green outside, gulping down bottles of water and tiding over our appetites with a trail mix from Trader Joe’s.  My feet were in excruciating pain.  I have bad feet on a good day, but between the flight, the walking and the heat, my poor dogs were howling!  After some rest, Frank helped me walk to a bakery to buy his mother some cookies and then to our favorite cafe in the entire world – Angelina!  We did not have time to sit down (and I think a hot chocolate wouldn’t have been the best choice on such a warm day), but we did purchase a box of macarons, just for us, which I had always regretted not doing when we went here during our honeymoon.

These macarons from Angelina in Paris were seriously the best I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve had a few! I don’t know how they fit so much flavour into such a gorgeous little mouthful.

An hour later and we were back in the airport, exhausted beyond all recognition, and glad to be going home.  We were home before dark and our little girl was back in her own bed, fast asleep after getting too tired waiting for us.

And now, a week later, here we are again, like it never happened!  Funny how parts of life go by in a blink, and particularly the bits we worry and wait for the most.

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2 thoughts on “There and back again.

  1. Congratulations on the Visa! Can’t wait to hear where you guys are planning on moving to. Let me know if there is anything I can help with, as in suggestions for your new home: “Chicago” wink wink…

    I love Boston, such a vibrant city with lots to see and do! Glad you guys were able to get some leisure in with settling some business. PS. Those macarons look delicious! I LOVE macarons.

  2. Congratulations–this is such exciting news! We have plenty of room for visitors if you’re ever in the Northwest. :o)

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