Archive for September 2010

Ireland, Day 1.0: Shannon Airport to Ennis

September 21, 2010

Here is the view out the plane window as we flew into Shannon Airport:

First smell of Ireland: cows.

Shannon was one of the easiest airports I’ve ever been through. At immigration it went like this:

Immigration Man: Purpose of your visit?

Me: “Vacation.”

Immigration Man:“How long are you staying?”

Me:“10 days.”

Immigration Man:“Enjoy your vacation.” STAMP. STAMP.

Then we walked up to two doors. We had nothing to declare, so we walked through the one that said “Nothing To Declare.” That’s it; we were in. I don’t even remember what the other door said.

Having cleared immigration, we discovered that one of the  airlines had lost one of our bags. (We flew American Airlines to London, then Aer Lingus from London to Shannon). The layover in London was about an hour, so this was not completely surprising. We’d had to take a bus between terminals and run about a mile through the convoluted airport to get to our gate on time. I was surprised that our bag was the only one missing from our flight, but I was pretty sure it would get to us before too long. The Irish airport staff were really friendly and helpful. Friendly staff make those kinds of situations so much less frustrating.

From the Airport (or aerfort as it is called in the Irish language), we planned to take a bus to our first B&B. The bus didn’t leave for 40 minutes, and we hadn’t eaten for a few hours. So we got our first Irish food: a ploughman’s sandwich in a box. It was surprisingly good. Here’s what was in it:

I find foreign labeling interesting. For those of you who don’t, this was a lettuce,tomato, relish, and Dubliner cheddar sandwich on whole wheat. On the label, pickle means relish and gherkin means what we call pickle. The relish they put on sandwiches here is delicious. It’s a tangy, multi-vegetable chutney.

Exiting the airport, I saw a bird I’d never seen, the rook. It’s like a crow with a different sort of beak. This is a youngish one (their faces become more bare and lighter in color when they mature):

From the airport, we took the bus to Ennis and a taxi to our first B&B. Our gregarious host, Domhnal greeted us, showed us our bikes and our room, and told us how to get around the town. He also told us there’d be a big hurling match on Sunday, and that depending who won, there might be great excitement in the region. Hurling is a field-hockey type sport, somewhat similar to lacrosse, and seems to be quite popular. To show was the sport looks like, here are some highlights from the match.

Ireland Vacation!

September 21, 2010

We’ve returned from our Ireland vacation. It was awesome. I’ll need several posts to cover everything we saw and did, but I’ll start with describing our route and logistical arrangements.

We arranged our self-guided cycling tour through a company called Irish Cycling Safaris. They now have tours in several countries through out Europe, but the company started in Ireland and they have the most routes there. I’d highly recommend doing this kind of tour to anyone considering a first cycling tour in Europe. They offer both guided group tours and self-guided tours. The self-guided tour was nice because we could spend as long as we wanted anywhere along our daily routes, and we weren’t constantly in a big pack of tourists.

The self guided tours include the bike rental, all accommodations (mostly in bed and breakfasts), and transport of our luggage from each lodging to the next.  The last feature, perhaps, offered the greatest convenience  as it allowed most of our clothes to stay dry most of the time, in addition to eliminating the need to carry all of our gear and clothes on the bikes.

We chose their route that went along the coast of County Clare, which is in the western part of Ireland. The route went approximately like this (starting in Ennis and going clockwise):

However, we ended in Galway and did not return to Ennis at the end.

We also considered going to the Cork/Kerry area, as that is my family’s ancestral homeland, but we chose Clare because it brought us close to the Aran Islands, which we wanted to visit, and it seemed to offer the greatest opportunities for hearing music in pubs. Additional things I wanted to see were the Cliffs of Moher (which are just south of Doolin on the map above), and ancient forts and tombs (which are scattered all over the country, but there are plenty of them in Clare, especially in the region called ‘The Burren’).

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