Friday, January 25, 2013

Van Morrison

What can I say?  What a magical day!

We left Sligo in the morning and made our way to Northern Ireland.  The weather was cruddy – slush on the roads, rain, sleet and hail again.  It was grey and overcast when it wasn’t wet.  The further north we went the better the weather got but from we heard everywhere the cities and towns were shut down by the two inches of snow that everyone got. 

We got to Bangor in the early afternoon but then we couldn’t find our way to the B&B.  We drove around awhile trying to go where Google told us the building should be and then we saw someone to ask.  It was raining and cold and so I followed him upstairs and his girlfriend (wife?) came out in the hall with her device of choice (Kindle? Nook?) and looked up Ennislare House and found the same misrepresented map as I did.  They told us where to look for it and we headed on down the road again.  We still couldn’t find it – but they were very nice!

We finally went to a gas station and Ken called and got directions.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday and we hadn’t planned ahead and gotten local currency.  While the Republic of Ireland uses euros, Northern Ireland does not.  They use British pounds.  We didn’t have any change in euros either so he had no choice but to use the credit card.  The call cost 8 dollars and 10 cents plus the 3% our credit card will charge us for the international fee.  That was one expensive phone call.  On the upside – we did finally find the B&B.  There was a large van parked right in front and it was blocking the sign from the street.

Our room was absolutely gorgeous and it had a fabulous view of Bangor Bay from a big bay window.  We met Ann who was incredibly helpful and friendly and fun.  She offered to loan us money until we could get to a bank the next day.  We said no thank you but I loved the fact that she offered.  As it turns out we should have said yes – but that story is for later in the narrative.

We knew we needed to get a bite to eat because the first thing that was going to happen at 6PM was the champagne hour at the Van Morrison ‘event’.  Ann told us about a lovely restaurant that was open on Sundays.  Almost every town we drove through was shut down completely because it was Sunday.  We were concerned we wouldn’t find anywhere to eat.  Ann offered to drive us up to the top of the hill where the restaurant was on her way to town.  We accepted gratefully, and went to The Ava Restaurant.  We tried to eat light but the food was too good.  It was tapas style and we ordered one dish too many.  They had the most delicious assortment of breads!

We walked back down to Ennislare House and I took a shower and got ready for the show.  Ken took a shower and soon we were on our way.  I was all dressed up in my sparkly jacket over my black tank top and black pants.  Ken was wearing what he calls his ‘puke’ shirt.  He loves this shirt but jokes that it looks like someone threw up.  I was so excited about this event that I even put on some makeup. 

We headed down the road to Culloden Estate and Spa.  The parking lot was slush and I was wearing dress clothes – not a good combination.  We parked the car and found our way inside.  We were looking for the Stuart Suite and we followed signs through the whole building to find the Suite.  It was pretty obvious, pretty quickly just how swanky this place was.  It was equally obvious that the people who were there for the show were in a whole different league.  I joked to Ken that they weren’t going to let riff raff like us stay for the show.

We checked out coats and got some champagne.  There was a HUGE champagne fountain just for show in the center of the room.  No one was taking pictures of it because I guess to them it was no big deal but I was blown away by it.  I decided to ‘behave’ and not be a ‘gauche American’ – so I didn’t take any pictures of it…on the way in!  I did finally break down and take pictures on the way out but it wasn’t as impressive then.  They had started taking stuff out of the room by then.

We were escorted to our table and sat down opposite a couple who were from the area.  Eventually, two young (everyone seems young to me these days) women from North Carolina sat to Ken’s right, and to my left was a guy from Canada.  I think he was from the Vancouver area but I could be wrong.  Between Ken and the two ‘girls’ (they really were women) were two guys from Germany.  Our table for 10 had nine people at it.  Of those nine, seven had come from overseas to see the show.  Of those seven, five had come just for the weekend specifically to be there for the show.  All 5 of those folks stayed at the hotel.  We were the ‘poor’ people at the table and boy did we feel it.  There was networking going on all over the place and we were just sitting there minding our own business. 

We found out that the event was a fundraiser and there was a silent auction.   It was a bid what you will pay silent auction, not an outbid the last person’s bid kind of silent auction.  I think the lowest opening bid amount was 250 BPS (British Pounds Sterling) which is equivalent to almost 500 dollars US.  The couple across from me asked if I had pen so they could fill out the paperwork to bid.  The won a great John Cleese piece.  I can’t imagine what they must have bid.  And then we found out they got it to give to their son for his 13th birthday!  I can’t even imagine cash flow like that! But I digress.

[Is this post long enough yet?]

Dinner started at 7 PM and went until 9 PM when the show started.  I will fill you in on dinner and the show in my next post.  I didn’t mean to make this one as long as it is and if you are still reading – thank you for putting up with this diatribe!

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