When I began to plan this trip, which was last year's Christmas present from my husband Mark, I think he thought a couple of weeks in Scotland would pacify me. Yet, when we started to compare airfare we found flying to Scotland via Glasgow airport was kind of pricey compared to past trips (and don't get me started on the exchange rate). Our daughter, who traveled last Christmas to Dublin, thought we should check with Aer Lingus and sure enough they were not only the cheapest, but had a direct flight from Chicago to Dublin. Of course that posed the problem, how would we get over to Scotland? No Ryan Air, or ValueJet for us as my husband was taking his golf clubs along.
During my last trip to the UK, we traveled from London to Edinburgh to Dublin and back to London, via the train and to be honest, I missed the freedom to strike out on our own and not worry about schedules and connections. So after much discussion, alright to be honest I told him my suggestions while he was watching the Golf Channel, as I knew he would agree to it all if I would just leave him alone. And what started out as a two week holiday of family research and golf, turned into a 32 day vacation to Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, all to be seen from the luxury of our own car.
The car posed the first problem, one can't rent a car in the Republic of Ireland and take it over to the UK or visa versa. We had planned to take the "fast" Stena Car Ferry from Dun Loaghaire to Holyhead, Wales and then drive across northern Wales, then up through England to Durham before we headed to Scotland. We had two options:1) go to Belfast to rent a car (Northern Ireland being part of the UK) and then taking the ferry to Scotland or 2) rent a car at Holyhead, through Hertz (our only choice). We initially took the 2nd choice until a good friend and romance author, Kimberlee, an American ex-pat who lives in Cork, arranged for us to rent a car we could take into the UK, but we had to pay for breakdown service which would be refunded when we returned the car. We jumped at the chance, which in hindsight we should have thought more about, but more on this in later posts.
In mid September my brother drove us from Wisconsin to Chicago's Ohare airport. As seasoned travelers, (snicker) we know taking an early evening flight will get one into the UK/Ireland early the next day and by jumping right into activities it helps one to stem the tide of jet lag. The thought of being trapped on a plane in seats only comfortable for people under 5'3" was daunting, (and a real test for closeness on our 34 years of marriage) but I brought along the Historic Scotland tour guide to read and my Ipod full of Scottish and Irish songs and podcasts to listen to. Oddly enough I was actually able to sleep a bit and we arrived in Dublin at 5:30 am, almost 45 minutes early.
The airport is very small by American standards but at least the Customs Agent was friendly and joked about our harried condition. We slagged our luggage on two carts, darn golf clubs and headed to the car rental desk. All I thought of was finding a place where I could lay down flat and get the kinks out, even the floor in the terminal which hadn't been washed in weeks had a certain appeal. Two and half hours later we were on way to the bus stop to catch the van to the car rental yard. The sky which was completely dark when we landed was now a steel gray with slivers of pale pink light peeking through the clouds and the streets were awash with rain. The air smelled sweet and fresh, but at that moment in the morning we would have traded our first born grandchild (if we had one) for some Starbucks coffee.
Having driven in Ireland before on my own, I watched Mark cringe at the way some of the locals were driving including our van driver. Mark hadn't driven on the "wrong" side of the road since our trip to Scotland in 1994, but the Irish are not the well mannered drivers one finds in Scotland and the UK. I often wonder if they use driving as a form of birth control, speed limits are suggestions rather than the rule. We pulled into the drive and saw our car waiting for us, Now, I'm used to driving small cars but after a long flight in a seat left over from the Spanish Inquisition, the thought of getting in that car made me want to cry. After a walk around and assurances that we knew how to drive on the "wrong" side of the road, we were off heading away from Dublin toward Dun Laoghaire to the south an our B/B. Of course, we quickly learned that the concept of "street" signs is foreign to the Irish (are they naming the street or the building? who knew?) and we couldn't find the B/B. We called for directions but the number I had was for the booking agent, not the B/B. So we drove around town, as my husband got madder and madder at me because it was the one accommodation I didn't Google directions for before leaving home. Being trapped in the plane together for 8 hours and then in the car was too much for him, so he went in search of a phonebook, totally nonexistent thanks to cellphones and I found a bookstore, ah!!!
Finally Mark returned, though I'm sure he had second thoughts about leaving me there and finding a golf course. He had gotten directions and we found the B/B about 20 minutes later. Unfortunately, they didn't have the room ready as they had promised and with much whining on my part to anyone who would listen (which was nobody) they promised it would be ready in an hour, so we headed off to lunch at a local pub. I don't remember much of that meal, I think it was fish but I do know there were no peas, the dreaded vegetable from the last trip to Ireland. Finally at 2' o'clock they let us in our room. I crashed on the bed, clothes, shoes and all and didn't wake up until the next day, the hell with jet lag. My husband went out and got the lay of the land, called my daughter's friend and family to let them know we made it across the pond and set plans for golf the next day. More on the Irish saga in the next post.
Does this travel experience touch a cord with anyone? Please share your flight experiences.