WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11TH: Just wanted to get in one run along the beautiful beach before we left Amsterdam.  But, when I got up, it was still raining and very cold.  So, hit the little “strange” gym in the hotel again. I was supposed to have a separate car to take me to the airport one hour before Chely departed.  Finally, after 3 phone calls (and 2 dozen new gray hairs), the driver arrived 30 minutes late.  Made it to the airport in time for my first flight on “Easy Jet”.  This is like Southwest Airlines in the U.S.  Only they are very strict about luggage – checked and carry on.  I had already gotten my checked pieces down to one and one carry on.  But, when I checked in, they said that my computer case was overweight and I would have to check it as well.  Told me to just take the computer out of the case and carry it.  Yeah, right.  Just walk around with a laptop!  I had an empty backpack in my suitcase, so I got it out for the computer.   Would have been a simple process except I had taped and strapped my suitcase together because of the damage inflicted by KLM on the last flight. After I checked in the bags and headed to the gate, I realized that my Work Permit was in the carry-on bag they had taken away from me to check.  Nothing I could do about it at that point.  Flight was uneventful – except they even charge you for water.  When I landed and started through passport control, I was trying to play it really cool and just pretend to be a tourist.  The officer immediately began asking me questions – why am I in Ireland.  He saw that I had a work visa a couple of years ago for a trip to England and questioned me about that.  I am a horrible liar.  I should have just told him the truth about the work visa.  But, he finally let me through.  I was telling the Bellamys about sneaking in and they said that the officer didn’t even ask for their work permits when they came through! Someone from BBC was supposed to meet me at the Information Desk and take me to the hotel.  I waited for several minutes and finally started calling BBC.  Finally found a taxi driver out front and we headed into Belfast.  He was quite the “tour guide”.  I did not know that the Titanic was built right here at the shipyards in Belfast.  I noticed on the ride from the airport to the hotel, that the air consistently smelled like a compost pile!  And, everything was still “green”.  As is always my luck, it was unseasonably WARM today and they saw the sun for the first time in I don’t know how long.  If it’s supposed to be cold where I’m going, they always have a heat wave and vice-versa.  It was 4 degrees below centigrade here on Monday.   But, the minute I come this way with nothing but wool clothing, it goes into the 50s. Quickly checked into the hotel and headed across the street to BBC TV.  The Bellamys are taping a television special called “Hugo & Friends” which will air all over the U.K. in late April.  It was sort of a strange set-up, but should be a great show.  Lots of guest artists.  Charley Pride and his manager who I haven’t seen in a couple of years were also here.  (Photo left:  Bellamy at the BBC TV). The food in the U.K. is the worse I’ve ever had anywhere in the world.  The only good food I’ve ever had here has been Indian.  BBC fed us dinner between the rehearsal and taping.  The Bellamys asked for sweet and sour chicken and veggies.  They brought them a plate of sweet and sour sauce with a couple of pieces of chicken floating in it and a pile of carrots.  The entire plate just looked “orange”.  I had the vegetarian pasta and it was pasta floating in water.  Really, really bad!  (Photo right:  The Bellamy Brothers and Hugo). Taping came off without a hitch.  It was “live to tape”, so I figured we’d be taping until 2 am. But we finished a little after 11 pm. Tomorrow we fly HOME!  Have to connect through Heathrow and I’m hoping none of the flights are cancelled. Jude

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12TH: Since this was my first trip to Ireland and I had less than 24 hours here, I decided to jog in what would be the most “scenic” area.  There were several old churches near the hotel and the famous “Crown Bar” was right across the street from the hotel.  We were staying at the Europa Hotel which I later learned was the most “bombed” hotel during the conflict years ago.  Lots of interesting signs along the streets where I jogged.  Had time to take some photos before we left for the airport.  (Photo left:  Crown Bar). When we arrived at the airport, I learned that I did not have a flight from Belfast to London.  I was supposed to be on an “e-ticket” but the information was not in the computer.  The airline kept insisting that I had a paper ticket, which I knew I did not have.  I finally had to purchase a ticket to get on the flight.  I’m just thankful that there were still seats available.  No problem when we arrive Heathrow and we departed on time.  We were a little concerned because CNN had reported that morning that two flights on British Airways had been cancelled for next week – one to DC and one to Saudi.  Security didn’t seem to be any tighter than in the U.S.   (Photo right:  Europa Hotel). Flight from London to Chicago was uneventful except for extreme turbulence.  It was so bad, the flight attendants were asked to take their seats.  I don’t like to fly under the best of circumstances so this was not fun!  Fortunately it only lasted for about 20 minutes.   My “seatmate” was a nice guy who slept the entire flight until about 1 ½ hours before we landed.  He brought out his own DVD player and started watching a movie.  When the announcement came on to put away all electronic devices, he just kept watching.  The flight attendant asked him twice to put it away but he ignored her.  Finally she came up to him and said, “Turn the movie off.  For goodness sake, it’s your own movie.  You can watch it at home”.  I was just glad he finally turned it off and didn’t cause an incident. Security in Chicago was much tighter than at Heathrow.  Not only did they wand me and pat me down, but they went through everything in my backpack.  I spent about a half hour just trying to clear security before going to the gate.  Flight to Nashville left on time and we got home with all our luggage.  Got in bed at 2:15 am and at 4:15 am the phone rang.  It was the butler for the Ambassador of the Netherlands calling.  Guess he doesn’t know about the time difference…. Jude