30 Jun

Ireland: The Beginning

The worst thing about traveling is the travel. I mean the transportation – the stale air on the bus, the overpriced airport food, the seatback in front of you inevitably crushing your knees, the smell of jet fuel just before takeoff. All that stuff. All things considered, though, our trip to Ireland went pretty well. The plane was equipped with individual tv screens on each seatback, and you could choose from about 10 different movies, some tv shows, video games, and detailed flight path info. I watched two movies and played five video games before breaking it. I don’t know what happened.

Unfortunately, Eileen and I can’t really sleep on planes, so we ended up essentially missing a night of sleep. When we see the sunrise, our internal clocks are telling us it’s midnight. And when we disembark from the plane in Shannon and step up to the Dan Dooley car rental counter, it’s 3 a.m. back home. So when I discover that the car is stick shift, I’m a little surprised, but in my current state of exhaustion, I’m sure I just look confused. Driving on the right side of the car and on the left side of the road isn’t that hard. But it takes some thinking. Add to that shifting with your left hand and worrying constantly about the width of the road and you’ll find it makes you even more tired than you already are.

But I’m not complaining. Having done this once before, Eileen and I are sure to take it slow and not drive too far on day one. We go to Kilrush, which, in retrospect, was not a great town by Irish standards. Still, it’s clearly European – with its small cars, its roundabouts, its restaurant/café/pub-filled town center, and its plethora of men wearing unfamiliar sports jerseys. So we’re happy.

We’re even happy to pay the equivalent of $7 for a tuna salad on white bread, it being the cheapest thing we can find. The euro is valued at about 1.6 U.S. dollars currently. So prices will hurt. After lunch, we go to a walled garden just outside of Kilrush and debate whether to pay the five euro each for entry. We do. The garden is just okay; the highlight, hands down, is the truffula tree-looking plant (echium pininana), which the internet tells me is called the “tower of jewels.”

Eventually, we make our way to the Killimer ferry, and, in an odd stroke of luck, we arrive one minute before the hourly departure. Perfect timing. We’re crossing the Shannon estuary, and you can sometimes see dolphins from the ferry. But not today. We’ll have to wait until Dingle to see a dolphin.
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