Dear friends and family,

It was a whirlwind trip to Ireland for the memorial of John O’Donohue. I left Shannon and that lovely hotel, Bunratty Castle and took the bus to Galway. I arrived there and went to my hotel, another comped one and it was fine. Not as
nice as the other one, but welcoming out of the rain.

I walked around and went to the cathedral to make sure I knew where it was for the service. I didn’t want to have come all that way and miss it because I got lost!

As I walked around Galway, I noticed how the Irish look like us! I mean us–my family. My mom’s sister, Auntie Molly, married Larry Sullivan—probably O’Sullivan before he came to America. I saw a man standing in a doorway and I could have sworn it was uncle Larry! I had to stop myself from going up to him. And of course it couldn’t have been uncle Larry, but that’s what I mean–they look familiar.

And they’re kind and friendly. I think Ireland is a great country to visit if you want to have that European foreign experience and still speak English. I must admit, even though I love France and speaking French, when I got off the plane and realized I could speak English, it felt so easy. I needed that respite, maybe because of all these memorial services.

I spent the evening with a friend from Northern Ireland. She and I met at the retreat in 2006 in Ireland and had been emailing about getting together. We were joined by another friend from Northern Ireland and a Scot. We ate and drank some and talked about John, all sharing stories about him. It was good to be able to do that. At times like this, I realize how much we all need each other. We can’t explain why he is gone, but somehow facing it together is good.

A friend once said to me, trying to help me deal with Sharon’s death: “We come in in the middle and we leave in the middle.” And somehow it always feels too soon, like we needed more time.

The weather was cold and blustery when I walked to the cathedral the next morning, Saturday. I went at 11am to get there early to be sure to get a seat. There was mass at 11am, so I went to mass. I am an ‘European Catholic’ because I actually enjoy going to mass in Europe in the gorgeous old churches and cathedrals. Maybe it is those hundreds of years of praying, but it feels different. I don’t go to mass at home.

Then the mass ended at 11:30 and more people came in. The Cathedral was full by noon when the mass for John started (I’m guessing about 800 people–it was a huge space). The first thing that moved me to tears was when the priests came out. Two by two, they just kept coming and genuflecting in front of the altar, then another two and another two. There were almost 20 priests up on the altar for his mass. John was very liberal and outspoken and left the priesthood because of that. So it meant a lot that these priests knew who he was and were there to honor him. The priest who spoke called John a priest, and a holy man. He was.

There was wonderful singing, music–Irish music and traditional organ music. People talked about John. And there was a traditional mass. I think this is a record for me–two masses in one day, back to back. Even in the days of St. Mary’s school, I never did that.

After the mass, a group of us went to a little hotel and had some food. John’s family all were there and we had a chance to talk a bit. They were all going to someone’s house for more food, but I had to leave to go to Dublin, so said my goodbyes.

I understand now what the term ‘paying your respects’ means. Being there to honor someone after they are gone is showing your respect for their life and their contribution. John taught me the power of writing something deep and well, as he did in Anam Cara and his other books. I’m proud of the interview I did with him in the Sun. Lots of people there thanked me for it. It was a lot of work, but following John’s example, I did my best on it. I did it deep and well. His life and the shortness of it has inspired me to write what I need to write, while there is still time.

The bus ride to Dublin was long and tiring–4 hours and so I arrived at my hotel at 9:30pm. Ireland had just won a rugby match against Italy or Spain, I’m not sure. The city was bustling with people everywhere. What a lovely city! I wish I’d had more time. Dublin is a place I want to go back to. I was booked into a suite at the Brooks Hotel and I loved that place. I was ready to just move in and stay.

After my long day, the lovely bath, the expensive sheets, the fruit platter I devoured–no dinner again! It was great. I thought about going down to the bar, but my room was sooo lovely and I was sooo glad to be there that I didn’t.

There are lots of workers from Eastern Europe working in Ireland and struggling to learn the language. One man said to me this morning, when I told him I couldn’t get the Internet to work: “Please take our apologizes for eet not
vorking.” Hey, I’m sure I’ve said much worse things than that in French!

Since the Celtic Tiger economy of the mid nineties, people have been flooding in. But my taxi driver told me their economy is starting to slow down–I wondered if it is because of our economy slowing down? It was wonderful to have my hotel so set up for business–they had American plugs and EU plugs! No adapters needed. Wow.

Today I flew from Dublin to Nantes, France. I’m staying at a lovely hotel in La Baule, along the Atlantic. They gave me a suite, too, with a view of the ocean. It has been raining and cold but gorgeous to look at the ocean and feel so cozy in here. I’m writing a bunch of articles on this area and am even going to be on the radio on a show in Santa Barbara this coming Thursday at 10am. It is called aroundtheworldradio.com, so check it out and listen if you can. Or you might be able to catch it on their website archives.

I will be going to the spa and meeting with people from the tourist office every day. Tonight I had dinner in a tiny restaurant in a quaint village near here, with a young woman from the tourist office. Crepes. Yum.

This hotel is called the Hotel Royal Thalasso and is the place where the French film stars come to get away. It’s posh and great. They have a saltwater pool, very warm, a steam and sauna and I was able to use that today before going out to dinner. Tomorrow, I start the ‘soins’ or spa treatments again. Ooh la la! Can’t wait.

Now, if I can just get my Internet connection to send out mail! When you get this, it means I will have succeeded at that.

Going to sign off now. More expensive sheets are calling to me..
Hugs from here,

Diane

'Traveling in Europe' 2008

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