A nine-day Ireland trip begins at Newark

The tragedies of Sept. 11 have hampered my writings of our Ireland trip. After much procrastination, I think it’s about time to get with the program and tell about our fantastic nine-day visit to a beautiful, friendly and appealing country. This outstanding venture to Ireland was all Arlene Garey’s fault. She gave Richard, a boyhood friend of mine, the trip for his birthday back in May. After of couple of days, he put his foot down and exclaimed, “I’m not going unless I find someone to play golf with me!” That someone ended up being me. So Mary Ann and I booked our outing with Arlene, a travel agent who became our vacation director. We were scheduled to depart Austin on Aug. 29, fly to Newark, N. J., hang around for some seven hours and fly on to Shannon, arriving there around 7 a.m. the next day. So that was our slate. We’ll begin this with Days 1 and 2 Thanks to former Bradyite David Mitchell, who loaned us the use of his limousine and Joseph, his chauffeur, we departed the Garey’s Horseshoe Bay home for the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport about 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29. What a luxurious way to travel. Joseph took us to the check-in stand for Continental Airlines. Within minutes we were aboard the airliner heading northeast to Newark which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Having a lengthy layover (our connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 7 p.m.), we had decided to go to see the Statue of Liberty. After finally getting our bags stowed in a safe place, we began looking for a taxi. Along came a handsome black man all decked out in a black suit and a burr haircut. Sporting a heavily-accented, beautifully-sounding voice, we heard his spiel and decided to hire him to take us in his fancy black Lincoln to the Ellis Island-Liberty Island ferry at the Jersey City landing, directly across the river from the tip of Lower Manhattan. We quickly found out our driver was from West Africa, arriving in the area some eight years before. He spelled his name, but I missed it, and we referred to him as “Speedy.” He took us across the Boyette bridge to Jersey City and directly to the old railroad station that served as the place to buy our tickets on the ferry. Speedy promised to meet us where we got off at 4 p.m. It was a clear, warm day, and I had prepared poorly for the heat, electing to wear a sportscoat which I ended up lugging around for the three hours we were gone from the airport. THE FERRY WAS packed with visitors, and I decided that many of them were from the local neighborhood. They were all different nationalities and many were speaking foreign languages. We marvelled at the Lower Manhattan skyscrapers and the majestic Empire State Building further uptown. We didn’t get off at Ellis Island where immigrants historically signed in when coming to the New World. It was very interesting, but we didn’t have enough time. So we stayed put on the top deck of the ferry and continued to view Manhattan and the magnificent twin towers of the World Trade Center. Little did we know that less than two weeks later they would be tragically destroyed by terrorists. The day was gorgeous and we soon arrived at Liberty Island. The statue is huge, towering at least a couple of hundred feet into the sky. After grabbing a hot dog and a soft drink, we headed for the line to go inside to the museum. . .but, alas, the line wrapped around the park so we just took a bunch of pictures, walked around the small island and reboarded the next ferry. Richard called Speedy on his cell phone (a gadget that was inoperable in Ireland) and our limo driver promptly picked us up at 3 p.m. after I’d, on an impulse, made a couple of collector photos of Mary Ann standing in front of the WTC. I don’t know why I picked that time take photos, but I’m sure glad now that I did. Speedy drove like a mad-man back to the airport, cutting off other cars, buses and trucks. He never scraped a one, but he did get a couple of honks and hand gestures. We arrived back at the Newark airport unscathed with a couple of hours to spare. We just milled around the airport, spending time and a little money until we finally boarded our plane to the Emerald Isle. Naturally, we were delayed on the tarmac some 45 minutes. Bad weather to the west had caused planes heading in that direction to wait. We finally got airborne about 8 p.m. and flew all night to Ireland. Actually, it wasn’t that long; only about six-plus hours. We had left Eastern Daily Time and arrived at our destination in Greenwich Mean Time. WHILE IN THE NAVY, we always sent messages in Zulu time which is what the military refers to as GMT. I was glad to finally be in a place in which I wouldn’t have to convert my current time to Zulu time. Whatever. We got to Shannon at 6:30 a.m. local time, checked in at the immigration office (it took a grand total of 15 seconds), wiped our feet on a mat so we wouldn’t bring in Hoof and Mouth disease, collected our luggage and were amazed to find that it all made the trip across the “pond.” Arlene had arranged for us to rent two cars (one for the boys and one for the girls) from two separate rental agencies (because it was cheaper). They got a maroon Nissan from Avis and we got a black Opel from the runner-up car group. We immediately got lost. Richard and I weren’t looking as the girls took off. We tried chasing maroon cars for about 10 minutes before getting frustrated and returning to the Avis lot. About 30 minutes later here comes the right maroon car. After a brief discussion on getting lost, we all departed Shannon (which actually isn’t much of a city, only an airport, homes and a few businesses’it’s located only a few kilometers up the road from Limerick) for Galway. It’s pronounced GOL-way, we all learned a couple of days later. Well, Galway is up the Atlantic coast from Shannon on a major Ireland highway. We quickly learned that there were two distinctly and different types of roads in Ireland (where they drive on the “wrong” side of the road). There are National roads and Rural roads. All roads are well paved, but differ much in width. The National roads have nice shoulders (verges) and the Rural roads have absolutely no verges. In fact, you can reach out the passenger side window and scratch up your left hand on the hedges or “pick the flowers” as Arlene liked to say. Anyway, we had a nice, pleasant drive up the coast to Galway which was about two hours away. WE PASSED PEACEFUL cattle farms which are virtually all Holsteins. The terrain in that area was rolling hills, and absolutely everything is green. Green grass is everywhere until we reached the coastal area in the northwest portion of the Republic of Ireland (we did not go to Northern Ireland). Arlene led the way on all trips (we put over 1,000 miles {not kilometers} on our rental cars on our nine-day jaunt throughout Ireland. When we arrived in Galway, she stopped only once to get directions then drove us straight to our motel, the 12 Pin Inn which was located on the west side of the 50,000 population city. Following our check-in, we went downtown for lunch at a pub/restaurant. Friends had told me that it was best to eat at a pub; the food was cheaper and was better. We had a dozen to pick from but decided on the one at the end of the block. I got a pint of Guiness. The first one wasn’t so good, but I forced myself and soon acquired a taste for the 200-plus-year-old beer that is brewed mainly in Dublin. It’s the favorite in the country although it has a couple of competitors. After changing our money to pounds, we did a bit of sightseeing. All of Ireland is old, dating back many centuries, all cities and towns have a number of grand old buildings or castles. All streets must have led to a gigantic old church because if we passed it once, we passed it two dozen times. We didn’t fool around too much after lunch, preferring to go back to the motel for a nice long nap since we’d been up for some 30 hours straight. About 5:30 p.m. local, we returned to downtown, visiting a blocked off section of downtown that reminded me of Sixth Street (although it’s not blocked off) in Austin. The girls did some shopping. Richard and I found that they were very good at that. We dined that evening in a fine Italian restaurant in that area of the city then headed back to the 12 Pin Inn for an early night-night. We had a big day planned the next morning when we would drive up the coast to Clifden and our first outing on the golf links while the girls planned to visit the Kyle Moore Abbey.

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