Grounded with a Suitcase Full of Dreams

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Pittsburgh by night

I miss being at the airport at 5 am, having ridiculously expensive cappuccino and flaky croissants after liberally dousing myself with 7 different perfumes in Duty-free as I wait to board a plane.

To me airports are the beating heart of the world’s dreams. The sense of expectation,the giddiness churned up by the unknown adventures to come as you are immersed in the culture of a city or some far flung region of the world with head spinning itineraries conjured up to show you the very best your destination has to offer.From Mass inside an incense filled snowy mountain cave in northern Spain, to long walks through the 18th century facades of Bordeaux at midnight, the baking heat of Petra, carved stone buildings blushed to warm rose as we searched for Indiana Jones….travel is the taste of strange fruit filling each and every sense. Having the opportunity to photograph it and write about it is a privilege.

For the past month two suitcases have stood sentinel in my bedroom, like patient faithful dogs long overdue a walk. One small carry on for short trips is overshadowed by a large 20kg sarcophagus for winter travel and longer summer escapes. Lately I have started to open them and go through their compartments – desperate to find some faint lingering echoes of the places visited.

With the entire industry I work in and adore, I am currently grounded – sequestered in the village I grew up in (but never fully appreciated the beauty of until now) home with my cocooning parents. “Do NOT mention the C word!” my poor dad thunders as he freely admits he is going gaga whilst my mum develops an unhealthy obsession with lofty cobwebs and where exactly my dad has hidden the step ladder this time.

Initially, when this living behind closed doors malarky started, I was dressing up just to go to the Post Office, cheerily shouting to my neighbors (from the prescribed safe distance of course) that I was off to Cannes for lunch with Jeremy Irons or away to Lake Como for a break with George and Amal. That was 3 weeks ago…

Now I’ve hung my most intimidating bikini in front of the fridge to avoid unnecessary grazing. I’ve put the furs and kitten heel boots away, the earbuds in and I’m speed walking 6 – 8km a day and living on salads. I’m currently chewing A LOT of gum whilst quietly sizing my parents up for a new patio. Salads and lockdown go together like bath tubs and electrical appliances…

I want to make a pilgrimage to Dublin Airport and leave flowers or a very large brown envelope for St. Christopher (patron saint of travelling) and Joseph of Cupertino (patron Saint of pilots, astronauts and flying) in the vain hope it will motivate the pair of them to get this situation sorted.

When I’m away I post my photos and thoughts on Facebook every day – generally because to me this is living the dream and I want to capture everything.

As a result my Facebook memories throw up yearly reminders of my travels and photos from hideous shots of me covered in Dead Sea mud and the splendors of Milan at Christmas with its private Chanel railway carriage to the December cruise on Lake Como, and a midnight visit to the City of Toys where colourful projections of children’s fairy tale characters cover every square inch of the rustic town.

These memories, when they appear, instantly reignite the childish amazement that filled me at being there quickly followed by the unwavering belief that I will travel again.

I anticipate stepping onto the Luas after lockdown with the same giddy excitement I entered the Metro roaring into Paris. I have always secretly envied tourists in Dublin and wished I could view my city through their wondrous eyes. It turns out I needed to take a trip to Pittsburgh to fall in love, not just with my city, but with my own country.Being Irish and visiting Pittsburgh one gets a sense of the kind of welcome that awaits Jesus should he decide to actually make his eagerly anticipated return visit.

That was where I was in early March, wandering the sun drenched neighborhoods of the city in the days leading up to Trump’s decision to ban all flights from Ireland and the UK.I now know that once this madness is behind us and we’re all looking to the skies again to escape I shall disembark in Dublin’s city centre with the same sense of wonder I reserved for my first foray into Times Square.

I shall view the Bank of Ireland on College Green as I first viewed Harrods and our own National Gallery as I stared breathlessly up at Sacre Coeur – and that is only right and proper.

There should be no room in the soul of a travel writer for jaded banalities and boredom at witnessing sights already written about by so many writers before or the contempt all too often breathed by familiarity.

The essence of travel is the feel of another culture brushing up against all your senses in its intoxicating unfamiliarity. Capturing that essence and being afforded the opportunity for others to read about them in travel magazines and sprawling Sunday papers is a wonderful unparalleled feeling.

My suitcase is ready for my next adventure, my camera lies nestled in its case ready to capture more sights that I will hungrily inhale and exhale in words.

To all the wonderful people I have been lucky enough to get to know in this magical industry of dreams and far flung adventures I dedicate this daily mantra. (repeat whilst clicking your heels together 3 times)

There is NOTHING like travel
There is NOTHING like travel
There is NOTHING like travel…

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