October 1, 2015
It was a glorious day in Dublin.
My visit to Ireland’s capital city came in the midst of a whirlwind eight-day trip across the Emerald Isle that featured a mid-August vacation with close family and friends in the West, some business doings in Ballsbridge, and an attempt to make connections with some never-met Waterford cousins with whom I share a lineage extending back to my grandmother, Honorah Crotty Forry. But back to the beginning.
We had booked an Aug. 19 Aer Lingus flight from Logan to Shannon, and found that the airline was using leased Omni Air 767’s on the Shannon run for the summer. The Atlanta-based American crew weren’t the usual Irish staff, and the planes were in temporary service so that the airline could add more flights and seats to Ireland. One passenger was disappointed not to see the familiar stylized shamrock on the plane’s tail, but aside from an erratic video system, the double-aisled 2-3-2 seating configuration was acceptable – and the flight got us to Shannon in just five hours.
It was my ninth visit to Ireland, and I have found the most difficult part of the voyage comes in those post-flight early morning hours after a night with no sleep. After all, we had left Boston at 7:40 EDT Wednesday night, and were on the ground at Shannon in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday at 5:41 a.m. Irish time, or 12:41 a.m. EDT, meaning we were not at all refreshed and ready for a new day while facing a 90-minute drive to Galway, in a rented car – on the wrong side of the road! In all, it was not the sort of occasion when I am at my brightest.
Looking ahead to those road-weary hours, I had asked my destination hotel for an “early arrival” room, but was told that check-in time was 3 o’clock, and I could not be promised a room earlier. I could book a room for an arrival the day before, but at 250 euros, that seemed a bit of an extravagance. Still, it would have been nice to get off the plane and get some shut-eye before driving on those left-sided Irish roads. (More on this later.)
Once in Galway in mid-morning, there was a chance to get in a nap at a friend’s house, and then it was off to lunch with family at a wonderful seaside restaurant, Moran’s on the Weir. I recalled the late Mayor Tom Menino telling me that it was his favorite place to eat in that part of the country.
The gathering was a birthday meal for a Galway native who was back home to celebrate with some family members, and our gift to him was our surprise appearance at table. I never did buy him a present, reasoning the cost of plane tickets for me and my companion, his sister, was sufficient to show the level of my esteem.
In Galway, I searched out the premises of Claddagh Jewellers. Located downtown at the junction of Shop and High streets, this store hosts a pair of video cameras that stream live pictures 24 hours a day. The site (thecladdagh.ie) has become one of my favorite online destinations, as I can sit at my kitchen table in Lower Mills and people-watch as the throngs pass by.
That day we found a young woman busker singing and playing her guitar, and informed her she was appearing live around the world! I called home to Dorchester and asked my daughter to go online and check it out. She quickly spotted me and made a screenshot of the scene, marking my own first worldwide streaming video web appearance.
That night, we dined with old friends Liam and Pauline Ferrie at their home in Menlo, and wished Liam well as he was preparing for a second bypass surgery. (The operation took place last month, and he’s well on the mend while planning to resume his active Camino trekking.)
By Sunday, I had made the adjustment to driving in Ireland. Although familiar with traffic rotaries from my daily run through Kosciuszko Circle, in truth I was unprepared for the protocol of rotary driving (they call them roundabouts) over there. The Irish rule seems to be that drivers actually stop before entering if someone’s already in the circle. What a quaint system! It was an adjustment, but soon I got used to it.
The drive to Dublin was some 200 kilometers – about 140 miles – and it was an easy and largely uneventful ride. The road, called a dual motorway, was not crowded, and the Irish actually stay to the left in their travel lanes, using their signals to change lanes, and rapidly moving left again once they had passed. I found the drive to Dublin to be easier and far less stressful than a Friday night run down Route 3 to the Cape.
One of the discoveries of our road trip was finding how useful my IPhone 6 was in navigating the roads. I asked the phone’s Siri to tell me where I was, and plugged in a destination. Each time, she gave step-by-step map instructions, and pointed me through the streets of Dublin precisely to our B&B townhouse in the city. Our stay was on Lansdowne Road, just steps away from the Aviva Stadium, where Boston College will play a football game next Labor Day weekend. And there was another surprise: We had our meals at the nearby Roly’s Bistro, a place I recalled Tom Menino saying was his favorite Dublin restaurant!
We walked the city that Monday morning, sitting on a bench in St Stephen’s Green. It was a warm and bright blue-sky day, a great atmosphere filled with joyous Dubliners who have learned to cherish each moment of summer sunlight. Two days later, on the motorway heading south, we drove through an hour of heavy rain. After a stop in Wicklow to see a cousin and her delightful children, we were on the road to search for those other relatives in a place called Ballymacarbry, Co. Waterford, near the Limerick border town of Clonmel.
The one disappointment was that once we were there, time did not allow me to meet the cousins, May Guiry, her children, and grandchildren. (May’s ten-year-old grandson Cian Smith, a champion uilleann pipes player, is currently a national sensation on Irish TV and on the internet.) I briefly met May’s sister, Terry Fitzpatrick, and she drove off to lead us to the family home. But traveling across those narrow country roads in the midst of the Nire Valley, she took a fast right, we got delayed at a stop sign, and quickly lost sight of her car, never to find her again. So we headed off for the two-hour drive back to Shannon Airport, where we had booked a room for the night prior to the flight home the next morning.
In Shannon, another discovery: We stayed overnight at a very comfortable hotel called the Shannon Court. It’s a five-minute drive to the airport, and at a price of 70 euros (about $78,) it’s very affordable. And then came the revelation: My next time over, I will reserve a room at that airport hotel for the night when I leave Boston and on arrival at Shannon, I’ll go to my room, take to my bed and get in some decent sleep before hitting those Irish roads. Refreshed, I can get acclimated in short order, which should preserve the nerves of any passengers sharing my adventure of once again driving on the wrong side of the road.