Ireland 2009 Road Tour Day One:

We are back from a week in Ireland and Amsterdam. The trip was fantastic, with lots of new experiences and sights. As a recap, I wanted to do something adventurous and exciting for my 40th birthday this year, so some kind of road trip seemed like a good idea. I worked with my travel agent on some various ideas after being pretty dead set on a drive up the Pacific Coast highway. He made some initial estimates for time and costs, and presented me some various options. After reviewing those, he also gave me an option for a self guided driving tour of Ireland which came in considerable less then the Pacific coast idea. Knowing Ireland is a hot button for me, my dead set intentions quickly crumbled and I started to get excited about Ireland instead. We had visited Ireland a couple of years ago, but there was still more of the country I wanted to see. Combined with an extra day in Amsterdam on the way home, that pretty much sealed the deal. The tour package we used was the Independent Irish Spirit package courtesy of .C.I.E. Tours, a pretty big travel agency in Ireland for guided tours. The reason it was such a good deal was because November is largely considered very off-season for tourism in Ireland. This means many major sites have limited hours (if any at all), colder weather, and around 8-9 hours of daylight available for driving. So I planned as best possible with these caveats in mind, and took advantage of the three major cities we would be staying in: Dublin, Killarney, and Galway.

To start off, we had a very late flight out of Detroit Metro (around 9:45pm). We got to the airport a bit earlier then necessary, and passed the time playing Gin and reading. The flight out from Detroit to Amsterdam was pretty uneventful. KLM's Airbus 330's have in-seat entertainments with movies, music, and games to help pass the time on a eight our flight. The fact that it was at night also helps if you can actually manage to sleep in Economy class. We landed in Amsterdam on time and had only a brief layover for our flight to Dublin. That flight was definitely more "exciting". Dublin airport was experiencing gale winds and rain due to a heavy low pressure system battering them and the U.K. for the past few days. The heavy turbulence started a few minutes before landing, which really made it feel like more of a roller coaster ride. Perhaps it was just lack of sleep, but Jen and I both had an inappropriate chuckle when the stewardess reminded us (shortly before landing) to "double check for the nearest emergency exit to your seats"...the landing was a bit of a roller coaster ride as it felt like the plane came in pretty hot, but we came to a safe stop and had a great view of a rainbow forming. over the airport (Ireland welcomed us back).

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. We spent about an hour and a half in passport control line since they appeared to be a little understaffed. This killed my idea of doing a Guinness brewery tour, but it was probably for the better since we were both pretty exhausted. The bus ride out to our hotel in Ballsbridge was slightly humorous as well. One of the main routes through Dublin (O'Connell street) was closed for Christmas decoration lighting, and this seemed to irritate the bus driver beyond description as he tried to maneuver a very large vehicle through winding Dublin streets already clogged with overflow traffic. As a brief aside, Dublin area has a population of around 1.6 million with a density of around 11,000/sq mile within the city. There also does not seem to be a very clear layout to the city. This, coupled with the staggering lack of road signs in Ireland in general, had us very much lost while traveling on the bus and very much unsure when our stop would be. The bus driver assured me (in a slightly cantankerous manor) that he would call the stops out when we got to them. After a stream of obscenities from his direction (mostly related to traffic), we arrived at our hotel for the evening. The rest of the night was spent at the hotel pub with dinner and a Guinness for my birthday treat. I will say this for Bewley's hotel though, besides a great breakfast and free WiFi, that is one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in. I would have tried to smuggle that home if I had bigger luggage. Coming up, Day Two and the journey to Killarney.