“Now why in God’s creation would you take yourself ever go to Ireland if yer didn’t havta? The weather is bloody miserable! For God’s sake, it rains all the frickin’ time. Are you daft man? And the wind’ll go right through ya… give yer head a wee shake.” T’s solidly Irish friend said, just before we left. “The people in Ireland go away for the winter themselves!” he exclaimed.
We laughed. Our philosophy is that rain is better than snow, and 15 degrees above zero is better than 20 degrees below zero. And T had a vested interest in Ireland – it was part of his heritage.
After flying all night, we landed at Shannon Airport, Ireland, at 6:15 in the morning, tired and bedraggled. Getting through Customs and Immigration was easy, then we had to pick up the rental car.
We had found a great price on a package to Ireland which included flight, rental car, castle stays, and B & B’s of your choice for $2300C each for 30 days. The only additional costs were dinners; everything else was included. There are still good packages like this to be found, so if you’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, now is a good time. Prices are low because the Ireland economy is not doing well, and the Euro-Dollar is also the lowest it’s been for years.
Picking up the car at the airport was easy.
The challenge was to drive on the left the 24 kilometers from Shannon to Limerick to our hotel, where we would most likely collapse into bed. It would be 3 am our time back home. Jetlag was settling in big time.
Driving straight is not a huge issue when you’re driving on the left; it’s getting into the correct lane on turns and roundabouts.
Roundabouts, or traffic circles, are endless in Ireland, and nowhere are they worse than coming out of the Shannon Airport. It seems like every 200 feet there is another one, and then taking the correct exit is an equal test. Added to the demands of focusing on staying on the left side of the road, there are literally dozens of roundabouts as you leave the airport, each with multiple lanes and 6 exits or more.
Photo by Google Images
The highways in Ireland are more like paved roads that wind and twist through the countryside. They are narrow, very narrow, and never without roundabouts. If it wasn’t for Nellie, the GPS, we would still be lost in Ireland. Sometimes she took us down one-lane roads that looked like back roads or lanes, and we thought she lost her marbles, but she got us there. Only once did she fail us, and that was in a city we were passing through and she kept taking us on the same endless circle because construction had closed a main thoroughfare. We lost two hours of daylight driving because of that woman, and T was ready to toss her out the window!
But T, despite the new challenge of driving on the left, the road signs in Irish, and jet-lag, did an amazing job of driving that first 24 km from Shannon to Limerick.
Our hotel in Limerick, the Absolute Hotel and Spa, was a crisp, clean modern boutique hotel located right on the Abbey River. It had a lovely way of blending casual style with sophisticated amenities. Our room had beautiful views and privacy as it overlooked the winding Abbey River.
Since T’s father was Irish, and his grandfather and uncle came from Ireland to Canada, we wandered the medieval quarter of Limerick City in search of a pub where we might ask some locals if they had any knowledge of his sir name heritage. This round pub intrigued us, and as it was cold and damp, the warmth of the blazing fireplace drew us quickly in.
We sat down to have a pint of – what else – Guinness, of course. A short time later, the owner came in and welcomed us very cheerily with a big grin, a warm handshake, and the lilting voice of a strong Irish accent. He was very curious to know the sir name, and expressively shouted out that of course he knew our people. “Ah yes”, he said, “you’ll find lot of your people around these parts. Ya be sure to come back later tonight when those fellows will be in ‘for a pint’, and they will want to meet ya!”
Driving in Ireland is great fun. With madcap curves, animals on the road, pot holes, one-way highways, tractors, and signs to nowhere, the views are incredible.
Only once did I scream as we rounded a corner to meet another car head on because we had wandered over to the right side of the road automatically. We were driving in the wrong lane! The older gentleman in the oncoming vehicle looked equally astonished as he braked. Confused, he didn’t know which way to go as he gripped the wheel ready to turn! We swerved back into the left lane, and he slid by, looking at us like we were utterly insane.
So sit back and relax if you can, as we continue to drive on the left and head to our castle stay at Ballynahinch Castle in the next post.