Day 3 (April 22, 2011)
Itinerary: check out of London hotel, take the train to Gatwick, fly to Shannon, Ireland, check into B&B in Shannon, explore Ennis
Good morning vacation. It was wonderful to wake up this morning to spend the day with Mark. The muffins and fruit I purchased at the market yesterday made an excellent breakfast and the walk to Victoria Station was lovely. The weather here in London sure seems perfect right now.
It was very easy to grab a ticket on the Gatwick Express to the airport since we are using Ryanair to fly to Shannon, Ireland this morning. Gatwick is much nicer than Heathrow. The security lines added something new that we hadn’t seen before. As we handed our boarding pass and ticket to the staff member before going through security, they used a webcam to take a photo of us. Then, at the gate, when we handed our boarding pass to the staff member, they pulled up that photo to confirm that we were the same person. Also, Gatwick had a very mall-like appearance in the waiting area before the gates. There were 2 floors of shops selling everything from electronics to swimsuits and clothing. There was a little video game center and of course food. We grabbed a decent lunch before heading to the gate.
Ryanair, a discount airline in Europe, boards similar to southwest as no seats are assigned. We waited too long before getting to the gate, so we found no overhead bin space and no two seats together. The flight was pretty short to Ireland at only about 1.5 hours and I managed to sleep the entire way again. I’m getting good at sleeping on planes. Mark told me later about all the advertisements over the loud speakers and carts selling everything from phone cards to perfume in the aisles. That’s a discount airline for you. It was much nicer than the easyjet flight we took out of Venice last year.
Shannon is a cute little airport that reminded us of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Passport check was amusing since all the EU and British citizens basically filed past an immigration officer who barely glanced at the passports as people filed by. About 100 people filed through in about 2 minutes! Meanwhile, the few of us that were non-EU citizens had to be asked several questions before we could enter. Still, this experience was much nicer than the wait I had in Heathrow.
Europcar had our minivan waiting for us. It’s not really a minivan as you would think of one in the States, but it does have 7 seats. The back row was all folded up and unfolds with a rather short leg area. At least the 5 of us should have enough space for our various road trips over the next week. Mark’s parents and brother will arrive tomorrow morning and we’ll see how all the luggage fits in this car. The car, while seating 7, is still smaller than the beast of an SUV we had in the Canary Islands for just 2 of us.
Driving on the left side of the road is an experience. Mostly, it is strange to find the driver’s side door on the right side of the car and to have the gear shift on the left inside the car. Mark’s job is to remind me to stay on the left especially when making turns. Right turns are hard and feel so wrong, but we practiced driving around on the left today and had no trouble.
Tonight we are staying in the Shannon Lodge B&B which is very close to the airport and very nice inside as well. After dropping off our bags, we had no plans, so we decided to drive to Ennis for the day. Since today is Good Friday, about 50% of the shops were closed, but the town was still fun to walk around in. It’s very small. I think we walked around the town twice. We found a decent driving map and also a sim card to put in Mark’s cell phone so that we can make some calls. We tried to get a sim card to put in my iphone, but my phone is now too old for the 3G sim cards out there and I had no luck. But, unlike our horrible Italy experience, this sim card worked right away and 5 minutes later we were able to make calls.
The weather today started out cool and cloudy, but the sun was out while we explored Ennis. The folks here are all very nice and are commenting on the amazing weather that could almost be summer weather to them. I hope it stays this nice. We didn’t drive very far, but from what we did see, the countryside is gorgeous with rolling hills, farms, horses, cattle, and even flowers and flowering trees.
As 6pm rolled around and all the shops closed, the streets started to look very empty, and we started to wonder if we’d be able to find a place open on Good Friday for dinner. Thankfully, we did find the one restaurant in town that was packed with all of us wanting to eat on the holiday. The Italian food was delicious. Mark and I shared a very tasty salad and pizza.
Tonight we are just hanging out in the living room at the B&B and accessing the internet for the last time for the next week. Our cottage will not have internet, so you might see less travel blog postings from me. However, I will keep in touch and check email at least once a day using the sim card we purchased. We pick up Mark’s family from the airport and then head to even more southwest Ireland to stay near Killarney. I’m looking forward to our vacation.
Happy Easter Weekend.