Arrival in Ireland!

I slept all of fifteen minutes before the lights came on in the airplane cabin. Shortly thereafter, we received yoghurt and a croissant with some jam for breakfast. It was still pitch black out the window as we descended into Dublin, although tiny clusters of lights became visible the closer we got to the ground. The roads were shiny with rain and it seemed we skidded a little upon landing. I found a bathroom before taking the long walk to immigration, riding people movers when available, the navigating the roped maze to passport control. As in most places, the official was unsmiling but brief in his handling of my documents, which included a small form I had filled out on the plane. He asked me what my purpose was here and I practically stuttered “business,” as it was a first for me! Then onto baggage claim to wait for, then snatch up my gray backpack as it came around the carousel. With a whish, I was through the sliding doors and into the Arrival Hall. Right in front of me was a huge banner that read “Welcome Lisa!” It had some other information on it that didn’t pertain to me, but I did go up and thank the ladies holding it for the welcome, explaining my name was Lisa. They smiled, nodded, and indicated a few other females had said the same thing. I passed beyond the brass gates, glancing at all the signs held up by variously clad gentlemen, until a bespectacled guy over to the left waved his sign a bit and I saw “Celtic Tours” written on it. He was standing a bit before the yellow sculpture we told our passengers to look for.

sculpture

“Hi, I’m Dave,” the feathery, salt and pepper haired man said. “I’m Lisa,” I replied, shaking his outstretched hand. “I work for Celtic Tours,” I added. “You do?! That’s great!,” he said in his English accent. Dave showed me a list of passengers and pointed to scribbled numbers, “These folks aren’t due to arrive until 16:30!” There were some other passengers who came in early morning whom he hadn’t seen yet. I ended up calling my colleague back in the States who had the Emergency Contact Phone. “Hello?” was her sleepy reply. “Hi Jess, sorry to wake you.” I proceeded to tell her the issues at hand and whether she had heard from the passengers. No, she hadn’t but would try to get a hold of them. Other passengers started to arrive with their suitcases, which we stored to one side. I went around introducing myself and saying I was from Albany, but only told a few that I worked for the company. Some of folks went off to a cafe to have breakfast. I wandered off and bought some water and some earbuds, since mine had broken on the plane. It was my first experience using my Visa card with a chip overseas. I inserted it into the bottom part of the card machine. When it was approved, I was handed a receipt to sign. We were waiting for the 8:40 passengers to arrive when I crossed over the bridge to the parking garage, and saw the sun gleaming to the right. To the left was a currency exchange booth. I asked the South Asian looking clerk if it was more economical to change more money rather than less, knowing already that the answer was yes. For some reason, I had to vocalize it. I decided to exchange all the dollars I had and then ventured back to the group. The driver of another coach was there. I’d heard a lot about Sean at the office. He had the nickname McDreamy from his last name McSweeney, and he did prove to be a good-looking man. Friendly as well, as I introduced myself and chatted a while. Finally, we decided that even though the last passengers were not there, we would head to the coach. The baggage carousel was all cleared from that flight. It was a bit of a walk under a covered walkway, which was good, because it was drizzling out. Two of the guys in the group, Marc and Ralph, helped Dave get all the heavy cases into the belly of the coach while the rest of us got on.

Once on the coach, Dave asked me to call Jess again. He had found out that the passengers whose plane was delayed til the afternoon were already at the hotel in Galway! I told Jess that we were leaving without 6 passengers and that they would have to find their way to our hotel on their own. While I was outside the bus making the call, Dave was on the loudspeaker telling everyone I worked for Celtic, blowing my cover.

Dave drove us successfully out of the airport and out of Dublin heading West toward Galway. He gave a verbal introduction to Ireland, on the population and such, and as we passed by peat bogs, a bit of background about them as well. We stopped an hour later at a rest stop for bathrooms and food. I bought a yummy looking wrap and handed it to Gerry, while making a pit stop. She joked about not having the sandwich anymore when I came back out. A couple of people were a minute late back on the coach. Dave made an announcement that anyone 5 minutes late would be left. I’m sure it was mostly in jest but no one was even a minute late after that!

Three hours and some odd minutes later, we were approaching  Galway. We skirted around the edges of the city and made our way over to Salthill, a suburb of Galway. The coach pulled up right next to the side of the Salthill Hotel, which resided across from the bay. After dismounting the bus, a woman with a round face and hair pulled into a bun came up. We reached out hands to shake and simultaneously said, “I’m Lisa.”  Lisa and her friends, who were presently napping in their room, were the ones on the late flight. She explained that they had rebooked onto a flight to Shannon airport and then taken a bus from there to Galway. She approached Dave to let him know as well. Everyone went inside and some people had drinks or something to eat in the lush bar with varnished wooden columns and hanging ferns. We were unable to check in yet, but our suitcases were taken into the lobby and would be taken to our rooms.

coach.jpg

A bit later, we all piled back on the bus and went back into town. Lisa’s friend Ellen came as well. I decided to sit up in the jumper seat next to Dave. He drove us around the downtown area a bit, telling us what to see. I was unnerved how young people would cross in front of the bus without even looking, but Dave was extremely focused and unfazed.  He dropped us off at the top of Eyre (pronounced “air”) Square. We had two hours before we were to meet him at that same place. Ellen, Lisa and I went in search of an adapter. There was one place, but it didn’t have exactly what they needed, so we went off down the pedestrian zone until we found a place that carried adapters for iPhones as well as Androids. I was confused why there was the extra prong – this wasn’t the UK! Later, I found out, I had brought the wrong adapter plug, which was good only for Continental Europe.

wrong-adapterLater I got the correct one from reception with a 10€ deposit:right-adapter

After our adapter experience, we happened upon a pub with lively traditional music pouring out the door. We went in – in the window were cushioned seats where a bunch of musicians were playing their various instruments. We walked on to the back of the pub, as it was quite full up in front. I was determined to order my first Guinness and Lisa agreed to try it, although she had never liked the taste in the past. The bartender poured my glass, then left it on a spongy mat for a minute or two before tapping it up full and handing it to me. The first sip was lovely – creamy and smooth. Lisa hesitated, then tasted as well. We were both in love and she helped me polish off the pint. We found a place to sit. I struck up a conversation with a fellow sitting beside me on a wee stool. He lived in Salthill and recommended some places there to get a pint or a bite. He worked in the fishing industry and went up to Killybegs in Donegal – some hours a way, nearly every day to buy fish. It was heaven, listening to Irish music, talking to a local and drinking a Guinness that tasted nothing like the stale imitation in the US. Some other tour participants joined us – Michael and Michelle and I tasted Michelle’s hot whiskey, which had a hint of cloves in it. Lovely!

guinness.jpg

When it was time, we made our way back to the meeting spot. It was raining and we tried to huddle under the bus shelters with all the other tour participants. In a few minutes, Dave arrived and we clomped up the stairs and into the bus. Back at the hotel, we got our room key cards and went up to our rooms. I ended up taking a nap and found it hard to get up in time for dinner. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant, where I sat with Lisa and Ellen. They both had the salmon and I had a pesto pasta. We all had the prawns (shrimp) as appetizers. Dessert was several tiny cakes. Yummy. After dinner, I decided to go up to my room and prepare for sleep, taking some notes first before nodding off.

 

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