Ireland! Green hills and cloudy skies awaited us. I intensely dislike the idea of pedaling out of the airport in the rain. And we've learned that the best way to combat jet lag is to do a good solid ride and immediately switch to local time.
We de-planed and lined up for immigration and customs. The speed of our transit through customs was moot, as Jack and my bikes were waiting at the baggage claim area, the boxes looking well used and somewhat mishandled, while Tracy's was nowhere to be found. The worst possible scenario - Tracy without his bike. Aer Lingus personnel were very accommodating and looked for Tracy's bike, while he looked more and more distraught. All Aer Lingus flights from JFK which could have transported his bike were now on the ground. No bicycle. After about 30 minutes his bike box emerged from behind a baggage door. What a relief!
In the women's room, I changed from my off-bike outfit to cycling attire as curious women discretely watched but refused to question what I was doing. Perhaps they have seen enough cyclists to be somewhat bored by this transformation.
Outside the terminal we began the process of reassembling our bikes. Tracy had the most to do as his bike was broken down as far as possible in order to fit into his box. Jack and I had larger boxes from the airline, and merely had to reattach the pedals, swivel the handlebars, snap the panniers to the racks, and ride off. Our short test ride around the loading zone didn't produce evidence of bent derailleurs or other irregularities. We've learned that cutting handle-holds in the boxes to make it easier for the airlines personnel perhaps makes a huge difference.
Out of Shannon Airport "Remember, Ride On The Left!" was our litany to ourselves and to each other, especially Jack who had never experienced riding on the "wrong side." Towards Limerick, we stopped at Bunratty Castle and a lunch sandwich at Dury Nell's Pub. The Castle Folk Park entrance fee seemed pricey, so we "gave it a miss." The ride into Limerick was just a boring highway ride. I was still not believing that this was Ireland. It was green and lush, but not breath-taking. The cloudy weather was expected, but did not accentuate any beauty here.
Our trip into Limerick initiated Jack into Tourist Information signs and their importance to us as a reconvening place during our riding days. With that, all three of us initially missed the huge "T.I." sign and building as we entered town.
We changed our dollars to Irish pounds (punts) at a rate of $1.85/£1 at the American Express agent located in a local travel agent's office. We knew the rate was bad, but this was slightly worse than we expected.
The reality of our trip began as we pedaled 30 miles south to Adare, reputed to be the "most charming village in Ireland."
As advertised, Adare was a cute thatch roofed town with numerous abbeys and ruins. The front yards of Adare were flower filled - geraniums, deep pink hydrangeas, multi colors of snap dragons, and other flowers I couldn't name. The thatch roofs were unique. The thatch was different colors, perhaps due to aging, ranging from yellowed to taupe to brown. Often all on the same roof.
We visited Black Friar's Abbey - Augustinian Abbey. Many ruins surrounded the "working" abbey. We looked into the Holy Trinity Church, complete with bell pull rope in the middle of the sanctuary, and a gargoyle high on the side wall.
After dinner at a takeaway place (British for "take-out"), we quaffed a half pint at the Dunraven Arms Hotel lounge down the street. It was a light airy lounge overlooking a colorful flower garden where a wedding reception wound down as the skies began to darken with impending drizzle and evening rain.
We stayed at a B&B selected for us at the T.I. (Tourist Information). However, we would have done better in price just knocking on doors, even though the town was crawling with tourists. Our B&B hosts, Tommy and Bridie, took good care of us. Our room for three was pleasant with a wonderful down comforter. I fell asleep reading Round Ireland in Low Gear by Eric Newby.
(As I write, it is Wednesday [I'm way behind in my journal writing]. I'm sitting in the lounge/bar of the White Sands Hotel in Ballyheigue. It is a bustling place with children included. Nearby four Irish women ranging in age from 40-70 are enjoying an ale, a Yuppie looking Irish couple in matching red sweaters are bellied up to the bar, and an American couple [she may be British] with their levis and camcorder occupy another corner. Tracy is drinking my Murphy's and I am drinking his Guinness. Jack has Irish whiskey on the rocks. Ordering a Guinness takes a very long time before it appears in front of you on the bar compared to popping a cap and pouring a beer into a glass at home. Here, providing a pint, or half pint as the case may be, is an art perfected by each bartender. The initial filling of the glass is pulled, and the glass sits under the tap for nearly five minutes while the head develops properly. At just the right time, the glass is topped off, with about 3/4" of a very velvety head to sip through before getting to the heavy smooth dark liquid beneath. Guinness here is literally a heady brew, very full bodied and robust flavor with hints of molasses, but smooth without the bitterness I find in Guinness at home. It is said that Guinness does not travel well. I would have to agree.)