Arriving in Ireland


So after what felt like an eternity, the man at the check-in handed me back the passports and told me everything was OK. I ran back through the gangway to make sure I got on the plane before it departed. After I got reseated, they continued to wait for other connecting flights so that they could fill the plane’s seats and thus depart with a completely full aircraft. I hoped that it would allow more time for our luggage to catch up with us.

Pretty soon, we taxied out on to the runway and were underway to the Emerald Isle. I was still tired despite having slept through most of the previous legs of the trip, I don’t remember much the flight over the ocean. As I mentioned on a previous entry, the last time I made the flight from the U.S. to Shannon was nearly 40 years ago, in 1967, and I recall having to wear a sport coat and tie, since everyone dressed up to fly in those days. I also remember conducting an experiment on that flight. I had some conversations with some of my friends where we speculated that if you jumped up on a flight that was moving at approximately 500 mph, you’d end up moving back in the aisle a few feet, maybe even more. One of them speculated that you’d get slammed up against the back wall of the plane. I performed this experiment and was surprised to find that I landed precisely where I jumped up. That was my first recollection of consciously performing a physics experiment. I didn’t understand it at the time, but later when I learned of Newton’s first law of motion, it immediately made sense. That is, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.” Even though I was moving at 500 mph, so was the plane, so jumping up had no effect since both the plane an my body were moving at the same speed.

Our plan was to land in Shannon in the morning and spend the check into the Bunratty Shramrock Hotel, right next to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. We thought we might also a visit Limerick which was only about 15 km away. When we visited in 1967, we were met at the airport by my Aunt Bridie and were taken to the Bunratty castle which is very near the Shannon airport. I was totally fascinated. There was a REAL castle with suits of armour, swords, and all the accouterments necessary to give me the impression that I’d just been transported back to medieval times. I couldn’t believe my eyes at what I was witnessing. And I had only been in the country for less than 30 minutes! So the Bunratty Castle was the first stop on our list of places to visit on this trip.

Unfortunately, we found that the luggage didn’t make it so we there with just the clothes on our backs. We hadn’t even packed a toothbrush in our carry-on bags. We hoped for they’d have some items we needed at the hotel which was only about 10 km away and that our luggage would arrive the next morning. We went to the Budget car rental location looking forward to having a car for the week for only € 160, but instead we got the ‘shakedown’ from Budget. They said that unless we paid and extra € 35 a day, essentially tripling the rental charges, they’d have to have a hold put on our credit card of € 4000 and strongly advised us that we needed this insurance. My credit card could endure the € 4000 hold, but then I remembered I was driving a stick shift car (with my left hand) on the left side of the road and thought maybe it was worth the extra cost for the peace of mind. I had to waive several other insurance charges that could have easily quadrupled the rental bill. So here’s your warning: When you rent in Europe, ask about hidden insurance charges and how you might avoid them. I learned that if I had carried a Gold Mastercard or Diner’s Club card, I could have avoided these usurious insurance charges.

It was still pretty early in the day when we arrived at the hotel and they told us it would be about an hour before our room would be available. We decided to wander over to the local convenience store to pick up a few items and then stopped at a pub called Durty Nelly’s to get something to eat.

After eating some fish and chips, I was in great spirits, eager to re-explore the Bunratty castle that had so mesmerized me as a youth. I found that instead of just a castle, there had been a whole village added called a ‘folk park’ that showed what Ireland was like perhaps 100 years ago. It was complete with cottages, mechant buildings, a schoolhouse, a pub, etc. When I come to think of it, the folk park may have represented several hundred years of Irish history since the country had not changed significantly for several centuries. When I visited in 1967, there were many places that still had no indoor plumbing, which to the American way of thinking was quite unusual, although they all had electricity by then. Many of the houses were built with stone and had thatched roofs. A lot has happened in 40 years and I was amazed to find that the houses were now better built and as modern as anything you’ll find in the U.S., as well as much more expensive. Ireland has gone from subsistence farming, skipped the industrial age, and right to a high tech bustling economy.

After exploring the folk park and castle, Terri was exhausted and we were ready to take a nap back at the hotel. We awoke early in the evening and headed over to a nearby restaurant to get some dinner. However, we weren’t hungry enough for a big meal, so we decided to go back to Durty Nelly’s and have some pub food with apple pie and ice cream for dessert that was outstanding. Despite the name and appearance of being a pub, the food at Durty Nelly’s is excellent.

We were hoping that our luggage would arrive the next morning so we wouldn’t have to meet up with our relatives in Nenagh with the unkempt appearance one acquires when wearing the same clothes for three days…

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