We arrived today before sunrise at the intimate and friendly Shannon Airport after a splendidly smooth trip from Newark. That phrase (“smooth trip”), when applied to an entire orchestra + instruments, is actually a description of a  minor miracle. Moving a large (100 members) symphony orchestra- musicians, smaller instruments carried on, large instruments in flight cases checked as baggage- over an international border is a massively complex (and expensive) task. Glitches can and often do sprout up like weeds. We all have gripes and bones to pick with U.S. airlines, but the people on whom we were dependent stepped up big time this past day. Kudos to the United team at Newark.

Anyone who has traveled to Europe on an early evening flight, arriving early the next morning, knows about the several hour gap between arrival and hotel check-in.  The people responsible for the ground ops (coaches, hotels) of the tour, Cara Travel Group of Boston, filled the gap by driving us north to see one of Ireland’s most celebrated natural wonders, the Cliffs of Moher. We got there, and instead of the cliffs, saw another prominent feature of Ireland– a fog so thick you could almost grab it, and mist driven by gale-force winds spraying in upward torrents from the sea. No cliff viewing today for PUO, but nevertheless, there is something awesome about the wildness of this farthest-west point of Europe, with all the power of the Atlantic revealed, in sound if not sight.

The last stop before the blessed repose of the hotel room bed was King John’s castle in Limerick.  Built in the time of the bad-guy king from the Robin Hood tales (the who was also forced to sign Magna Carta), it was the cornerstone of the growth of medieval Limerick, and later was the object of numerous terrible sieges in the 17th century rebellions against English rule. A magnificent interactive exhibition was added a couple of years ago which does much to bring alive the rich history of the castle. It was fun watching PUO members scrambling atop the battlements. Before we kept, Emma Powell, Demi Fang, Nathan Wong and Spencer Shen delivered a spirited pop-up performance of a movement of Grieg’s String Quartet for the patrons at the castle shop.

Tomorrow is the first music day, at the University Concert Hall at Limerick University. Here’s hoping for a restful night for all!