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May 14, 2006: Ireland - here we are

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It doesn't seem so very long since my dad picked us up and drove us to the airport, til the time when we arrived in Dublin. It's just a few parts of the trip that seemed to stretch on forever, but getting here made it all worthwhile.

The plane from San Francisco to Heathrow was packed, but I'd managed to at least get us aisle seats even if we were stuck back in coach, so it wasn't as bad at all as I'd expected it to be. We ended up chatting with a couple from Folsom in the waiting area in San Franciso - she has just started knitting and was commenting on the pair of socks I was working on, and he collects books, mainly science fiction and fantasy, so all four of us had lots to chat about. They ended up sitting a few rows ahead of us so we each had friendly faces to wave to through the course of the trip.

Heathrow airport is kind of a nightmare. We landed in one terminal and then joined a line that stretched through hallways, up and down stairs, and around corners nearly indefinitely while waiting to board a shuttle bus to take us to the next terminal. While in line we chatted with two other Americans (funny how we always find each other, isn't it) and determined that the line was much like Disneyland - you think you see the end, but then you turn the corner and you've another half hour or more of shuffling slowly forward and feeling as if you are going nowhere.

The shuttle bus wasn't the end of it by a long shot. Next we waited in a huge line to get through security at the second terminal, and then another line (much shorter this time) to get through the passport check, and then more miles and miles (or at least it seemed that way) of windowless metal hallways until we finally reached the tiny little offshoot terminal for flights to the UK and Ireland. We had about three hours of layover in Heathrow and it turned out to be just barely enough time, since they called for boarding for our flight to Dublin about 30 seconds after we finally tracked down the gate. I feel sorry for anyone who had less time to make it than we did - chances were high they were going to miss their flight.

We landed in Dublin airport which was much easier to navigate than Heathrow (pretty much anywhere would be easier to navigate than Heathrow) and tracked down our baggage and then the rental car counter. They pointed us to the lot, we found our car (with a little help) and then the fun began. First there was the excitement of trying to figure out how to put the thing into reverse, and then Richard had the fun of driving on the left side of the road while both of us tried desperately to figure out the street signs. I am not entirely sure how many times we ended up circling through roundabouts and going the wrong way on the same freeway, but we did manage to miss the road we wanted too many times to count, and also go through a tollbooth before we'd had a chance to track down an ATM. Luckily the lady at the booth was extremely nice and understanding of the poor stupid lost tourists, so she pointed us in the right direction and let us through without paying. Off we went to get lost some more, finally ending up in a little town called Kilcock, where we decided we'd had enough. We stopped, got lunch, and tracked down an ATM in case we hit any more of those unexpected toolbooths, took deep breaths, and finally found the road to Trim.

Trim is a lovely little town, what we've seen of it so far. It's quiet and small and perfect for our first few days here. We checked into Brogan's Guesthouse (check-in happens in the bar) and crashed for a few hours, then wandered off down the roads to try to find someplace for dinner. We never did track down the restaurant we were looking for - recommended by our handy guidebook - but we found a cute little diner where we had a large and delicious dinner. Unfortunately, on the way to the restaurant we lost our handy little guidebook (Rick Steve's Ireland 2006), which is extremely inconvenient, since that's the one we were using primarily as our guide. Urk. So we're hoping we can track down another at some point, or else rely on the kindness of strangers and the prevalence of Tourist Information offices around the country to make do.

But despite this little setback, and the fact that we're still suffering a bit from jetlag and the lack of sleep on the trip over, I'm so glad we're here and I am looking forward to the next three weeks. I have even tracked down a wool shop, and obviously we found an internet cafe, so life is, as they say here, grand.

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