Over Christmas, Irish Times Abroad is offering the chance for two people to win a trip to visit family or friends living overseas with the Flying Visit competition.
Donegal woman Maureen Curran won the first ever Flying Visit competition last year, and flew to Canada to visit her four brothers with her mother in June this year.
This is her story……..
The view from the top of Sulphur Mountain in the Canadian Rockies is breathtaking – at 2,451 metres it is more than twice the height of Carrauntoohil. Six mountain ranges, Bow Valley and the pretty town of Banff can all be picked out down below.
For Maureen Curran and her mother Bernadette O’Donnell, holidaying in Canada in June this year after winning the last Flying Visit competition with The Irish Times, it was a high point of their trip, not just because of the majestic peaks all around, but because six of the 12 O’Donnell family members were reunited.
“We drove through the stunning mountain and lake landscape of the Canadian Rockies into Banff National Park,” says Maureen. “We saw bears feeding along the highway, enjoyed elk burgers and beautiful local beers.”
Along the way, they stopped at Athabasca Falls, Lake Louise and Banff. “By the time we soared with Mum by cable car to the top of Sulphur Mountain we felt pretty pleased that we really had got the very most out of our visit.”
Four of Maureen’s brothers live in Alberta, three of them together in a house in Edmonton: Brian works in steel erection in the Northwest Territories, John does car bodywork, Aidan works in a bar and Peter is in construction.
Once in a lifetime
“It was more than a holiday. It was a once-in-a lifetime experience,” says Curran. “Neither Mum nor I had taken a transatlantic flight before. From the moment we knew we had won the Irish Times competition, we spent the next few months on the phone to everyone planning every minute.”
After two flights and a whole day travelling from Ramelton, Co Donegal, the women landed in Edmonton, where they stayed in a hotel courtesy of The Irish Times.
“We called in to where John and Aidan work, met their workmates. All the places they talk about on the phone are now familiar to us too,” says Maureen. “We saw the house and the garden where they sit together to have a beer. This is very important to Mum, she can place her sons in their new homes and put faces to the names of their colleagues, bosses and friends.”
They visited the Alberta Legislature building, a West Edmonton Mall, “an enormous shoppers’ paradise” and Edmonton city centre before heading out to a cabin in Canmore, a picturesque village towered over by the Rockies.
Time to chat over a cup of tea was cherished. “The most important thing about our trip was the time to sit and talk, properly talk, not the lagging or interrupted Skype calls we have become accustomed to the kind of family banter that characterises all Irish families,” says Maureen.
“It naturally became an occasion of reminiscing and of coming to value family.”
Maureen and Bernadette used their €1,000 spending money to extend their trip so they could stay for two weeks. “It was a prize that everyone in the family got to celebrate on our behalf. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving, the initial win, the prep and anticipation, the actual visit, all the memories.”
On her return home, Maureen wrote this:
There was living too
voices rising, sweary banter and food,
endless tables of food, second helpings, second sittings
and laughter, there was laughter,
the good of it rose in us and we carried it like light.
I know it in the bearing now, here
in this late night chat and breaking out in song:
new belief in the fact of survival, in love.
Would you like to visit a loved one abroad in 2017, or have two special people come to visit you where you live overseas? Click here to enter the Irish Times Abroad Flying Visit competition. www.irishtimes.com/flyingvisitTags: