Last week was the first week of the Easter holidays and we took a trip over to Ireland to see my wife's family.
It was nice to get away for a while but I never look forward to the car journey.
Thankfully, my trusty sat nav app on my phone gets us through most situations unscathed.
Journey There And Back
There's always an urgency when it comes to our trips to over to Ireland.
The main reason being that we have to cross the Irish Sea and the ferry won't wait for us.
Getting around Glasgow and through Belfast can be a bit hit and miss with the traffic.
So we always set off with hours to spare just in case yet we still only get there with less than an hour to go before sailing.
It's a long time for the kids to be sitting around in the back of a car but we usually get away with only a couple of skirmishes.
Plenty of stops can help but everywhere we normally stop seemed to be closed for refurbishment.
By the time we've reached our destination in both directions I'm relieved that it's over because I do all of the driving.
The part I hate about the journey is the single carriageway section of road between the ferry port at Cairnryan until you get to Ayr.
If you get behind a lorry, tractor or Sunday driver, you know it's going to be a long day.
Ferry Crossing To Ireland
Being cooped up on a boat for a couple of hours isn't all that much fun.
We normally get a cabin so that we can relax, watch some TV, have a sleep and have use of a private bathroom.
Crossing the Irish Sea can be a bit of a lottery because it can get quite choppy.
On a past trip over in October, we used a different ferry company which didn't have cabins.
The weather was atrocious and groups of elderly bus trippers were throwing up everywhere.
You couldn't escape the smell of vomit and in the restaurant plates were crashing and cutlery was flying about the place.
Having a cabin avoids that and it also means the kids aren't running around getting lost.
And at least I don't have to drive the boat as well as the car!
Crossing The Border
I remember crossing the border into the Irish Republic for the first time.
It was almost a relief as we'd just come through Portadown and there was a Sinn Fein rally on.
I remember seeing all the troubles in Northern Ireland on TV from my youth and was a little concerned that they would discover an Englishman in their town!
Now I've crossed the border so many times I don't really think about it.
But with Brexit on the go and Nicola Sturgeon's ego on overdrive in Scotland there could be more than one border to cross in the not so distant future.
Will it require me to get my currently non-existent passport out? Who knows?
Whatever happens, I'm sure it's not going to be as easy as it was before to visit relatives in England and Ireland.
Going Back In Time
Spending time over in Ireland with my in laws is like stepping back to my childhood.
There's no heating. Forget Wifi. And of course unless you want to run up a huge mobile phone bill turn roaming off!
The house is also in the middle of nowhere so you can't even nip to the pub.
If you really want to get away from it all, it's a great place to go.
The trouble is, it's freezing, there's nothing to do and I'm not great at either of those things.
Still, I get to spend some uninterrupted quality time with the kids and my wife gets to see her mum.
Maybe The Last Time
It's hard to be on your own in the middle of nowhere later in life.
We try to go across to Ireland as many times in the year as we can but I know it's hard for my mother-in-law.
It was good to hear that she's considering a move down to the Cork area to live with relatives.
It makes sense to be with family for company and support and to improve your quality of life.
So it may be one of the last times we visit where my wife grew up and instead we'll be travelling down to Cork.
It will mean a longer journey from the ferry but it will be nice to break the drive up and stay overnight somewhere.
Who knows, we may even have moved out of Scotland by the time this all happens.
How About You?
Do you have relatives a long car journey away?
How do you pass the time with your kids in the back seats?
Do you rely on your sat nav to help you find your way or are you old school and use a map?
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