Day one, May 22, 2013
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Sundy and I arrived from JFK into Shannon airport at 6 a.m., a little groggy from only a few catnaps on Aerlingus, but raring to go. As we flew in over Ireland, my eyes teared up a bit. Everything was so rural and green and the sun was shining in welcome. At last, I was here.
By the way, Aerlingus was great. We sat on the side where only two seats were and enjoyed the extra room. We also enjoyed the free television in the seat-back in front of us where we could choose movies or TV, games or music to keep us occupied. Aerlingus also believes in keeping you fed, unlike American planes that dole out a peanut or two. The pilot landed us beautifully with hardly a bump.
Getting through the immigration line was fast and easy at Shannon. Since the airport is very small, everything is accessible and easy to maneuver. We found the ATM which only gave out 150 Euros at a time. But there are two machines which worked out okay. A money exchange booth is also present, for a fee, course. Once we had some Euros, we headed outside, breathed the fresh air, and boarded a bus for Galway. We discovered immediately that we enjoy bus rides through the gorgeous countryside. No stress of finding out way or inability to gaze out the window. We loved driving through quaint, often colorful and always tidy villages and seeing the landscapes which are simply picture postcards everywhere you look.
Arriving in Galway, we walked two blocks up to Eyre (pronounced “air”) Square, a park surrounded by lots of small shops. A walk around found the Meteor shop where we met Dave, a delightful young man who gave us an introduction to the Irish warmth and friendliness we encountered numerous times. Dave worked very hard to fix up our phone and with 10 Euros the Blackberry was up and running at 35 cents per local call minute and 15 cents for international. Cheaper to call across the ocean. Isn’t that weirdly interesting?
Off we went, only a few blocks walk, to meet Galway Tours for an afternoon exploring the Cliffs of Moher and a number of antiquities and more stunning scenery. Among other things, we saw Dunguire Castle, the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient tomb. That's it in the photo. It dates back several thousand years before Christ.
We also visited the Burren, a strange, barren landscape of limestone that didn’t do much for me. The air was chilly to us and we were wishing for more clothes!
In mid-afternoon, the bus stopped in Doolin, a small village with a pub and a few stores. Not hungry, we walked around the village and explored a bit. The weather was quite cold here and windy but sunny. Sundy and I were tired but pushing through, loving every minute, and so glad to be on a bus instead of driving!
We reached the Cliffs of Moher and walked up a long flight of stairs to the top of a rise where we could look down at the sea and the cliffs. Magnificent, stunning, breathtaking! Down below we could see seabirds flying above the waves crashing against the cliffs. They looked as small as butterflies. The wind was the strongest we encountered on our trip, so strong that it pushed at our backs and made us have to hold on to keep from falling. And did I mention it was cold?! No rain, though, for which we were grateful.
Our tour price included the visitor’s center but if it hadn’t we would not have paid to go in. It’s just photos and videos of the more spectacular outside! A waste of money. There is also a climbing tower for another charge but the steps are steep and narrow. I guess the biggest disappointment is the way the area has become commercial, losing its wild beauty. But nonetheless, I am glad I saw this magnificent handiwork of God.
After the tour, Galway Tours trusty (and extremely knowledgable) driver, Ken, dropped us at our bed and breakfast, Coolin House in Salthill. Here we met Marion who showed us to very clean, very small room with a larger bathroom. It was nicely adequate but not fancy. No washcloths or toiletries but we weren’t expecting either.
After a few moments of unwinding, we were off to find food. Now, remember, we have not slept in a very long time and we are growing weary, but still pressing on. The Salthill area was bare of pubs and easy eating places—no fast food joints here or anywhere in Ireland that we visited. Thank goodness. As we walked, searching, we met a pair of Irish girls who directed us to Lohan’s Pub—3-4 minute’s walk, they said. We learned that an Irish minute is much longer than an American one but finally found Lohan’s after about 20 minutes and had a nice bowl of hot soup to warm our chilled Okie blood. Refreshed, we walked along the promenade beside the silvery waters of Galway Bay before heading back to the bed and breakfast where we collapsed for the night.
Day one in Ireland was fabulous!