Day 1 & 2 – Wednesday Aug. 16 & Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006
Left Austin on the 12:30 PM AA flight to St. Louis, connecting in Boston and on to Shannon, Ireland. (Ireland is five hours ahead of Austin time)
Arrived at Shannon Airport from Boston at about 8 AM. Went through Passport check and turned in the white cards. Baggage claim went OK – for us at least. The Delta flight on the next carousel was having problems. The carousel wasn’t turning and the Delta officials were expressing their apologies over the speaker system concerning any missed connections. At such times of stress the impersonal sounds of empathy, delivered by faceless, nameless and emotionless airline employees can be so comforting.
The cell phone was waiting at the SIXT/Irish Car Rental (ICR) desk as promised. No line at the ICR desk while there were long lines at Avis and Hertz – I wonder if that means anything. One of the agents was on the phone trying to calm down a customer and explain why extra charges had shown up on his credit card statement. I silently wondered if that would be me in just a few weeks. A special shuttle took us to the other end of the airport where the cars were parked. The shuttle bus driver had trouble finding the car ( a Vectra) because it wasn’t parked in the right spot. He finally found it and he helped us load our bags into the car and we were on our way. Just outside the lot we stopped to check the maps for directions and to test the cell phone and discovered that I couldn’t get the car into reverse. I walked a few hundred feet back to the car lot to ask how to put the car in reverse. It turned out that there was a lift ring underneath the shift knob.
On to Ennis, just north of Shannon Airport. – what a traffic jam. The medieval road planners hadn’t anticipated cars and tourists in the month of August. There was an Ennis By-Way under construction. That wasn’t going to help us and the construction was only making the traffic situation worse.
In Ennis there were many winding one way streets and parking spots were hard to come by. There was lot parking and on street parking plus the usual illegal double parking. We finally saw a spot right on a corner so we grabbed it and decided to figure out later if it was a legal place to park or not. The sign said “Disk Parking” so we went to the nearby convenience store to see if we could learn something about this type of parking. For 1 Euro you purchase what looks like a lottery scratch off ticket. Then when you want to use it for parking you scratch off the covering film over the date and time you placed the ticket in your vehicle windshield. The name disk comes from the coin that you use to do the scraping. The location determines how many hours that you may park in a given space before you need to scratch off a new card. One to two hours was common but the lady at the convenience store said there was Catholic School (out for the summer) a few blocks away where you could park for four hours with the same 1 Euro card. We decided to keep the spot that we had found rather than giving it up to look for a school we might not be able to locate.
So, with an hour of parking time, and a crude street map of Ennis in hand we went off to look for something to eat and try to figure out exactly where we were in the City of Ennis. It turned out we were in Merchant’s Square and we had parked just at the edge of it. I was careful to remember the area around where we had left the car so that I could find it again.
We went down the block and around the corner and found a little place called D.J. Coffee House at 15 Merchant’s Square. I asked the waitress if she could locate the coffee house on my map. Although she couldn’t pin point the exact location she knew where O’Connell Street was (1 block away) which was the “main drag” in this ancient town. With that I was able to figure out where I was in Ennis. However, now I was going to need a much better street map if I was to successfully navigate the many one way streets while also driving on the left side of the road down narrow ancient streets.