02 Sep 2006 - Saturday - Dublin Airport, Drogheda, Dundalk

Another year, another travelogue. This time, Kathy and I are visiting Ireland. We had decided to do everything ourselves because our last trip, to India, felt like we were being led by the nose and had no free time whatsoever.

Friday afternoon, I drove my car to Kathy’s work, ACD, where we asked Nancy to take us to the airport, which she did.

We went to the American Airlines ticket counter, got our boarding passes and checked our luggage. The agent told us that there was an earlier flight to Chicago, so we moved there. Soon we headed for the security checkpoint. We got through the security checkpoint in record time, hardly believing that it took so little time and effort.

After a short wait, we boarded the plane to Chicago and the flight went pretty quickly.

Once in Chicago, we ate dinner and waited for our flight to Dublin. The flight was over an hour late, so by the time we were in the air, we were antsy to get started.

On the plane, we read our respective books until both Kathy and I were finished. I’m reading Lynn Grabhorn’s book “Dear God, What’s Happening to Us?” Very strange indeed, but alarmingly matches what my friend Carol Sach has described. Very disturbing.

Then we watched a DVD of the HBO television show “Rome” about ancient Rome on my laptop computer. I’ve got a very small case for my laptop that has a two-headphone adapter so we could both listen. After that, we slept on the plane for a few hours and were surprised when the sunlight woke us up. This seven-and-a-half hour flight seemed to take only about three hours.

We landed in Dublin and walked through what seemed like many miles of corridors and up and down stairs, which reminded me very much of London’s Heathrow airport. Finally, we got to a room where lots of people were standing in line for Irish Customs. We picked the very shortest line, so naturally it took the longest and we were the very last people to get through the line.

We got the to luggage carousel but there were so many people that I couldn’t get near the luggage. Finally I had to bully my way to the conveyor belt to claim our luggage when I caught a glimpse of it between people in the crowd.

We walked by a money exchange center, but decided that because they were at the airport, they would most likely give us a bad exchange rate, so we decided not to get money at the time. If we were less sleepy and had thought about this hard enough, we would have realized this was a mistake. Because it was Saturday, the banks and exchange businesses were all closed. We didn’t figure that out until later.

We walked to the Avis car rental center and they said that our car was only reserved for two days starting on the 12th, despite the fact that our voucher showed the correct eleven days and also had the correct dates on it.

Soon the problem was corrected and had our next dilemma: should we get the optional insurance? Because I’m a safe driver, we opted against it. [Another mistake, but I'll write about that later on.]

After a bathroom break (I would like to say a short bathroom break, but Kathy walked right past the Ladies room and ended up walking all the way back into the terminal to find another toilet and she was gone an ungodly amount of time) we walked to the car lot with keys in our hands. There was a very stiff cold wind in the air. After stuffing our luggage into the car, Kathy discovered that she had somehow lost the ticket that would let us out of the airport for free. We searched the parking lot for a while, but the wind had blown every scrap of paper away. Finally we gave up and stopped at the Avis building and they gave us a new ticket, but I was a bit concerned that this was not a very good start to our trip.

Driving the car was very strange and it took some time for me to get used it because, being British road rules, I had to drive on the left side of the road rather than the right. Also, the driver’s side of the car was on the right side of the vehicle and I had to manually shift with my left hand. Luckily, the clutch and gas pedals were oriented the same as the United States (left clutch, right accelerator).

Soon I had the hang of it and we headed out on the highway, headed out of Dublin. I had no desire to drive in Dublin because of warnings I'd been given by multiple people. And especially not on my first day of left-side driving.

We got onto the M1 freeway and headed North for the city of Drogheda. Not too far from Drogheda, I noticed a sign explaining that this was a toll road and I would soon have to pay a toll. At that point, we decided that exchanging money was a very high priority indeed. We weren’t in any kind of trouble, however, because luckily I had remembered to bring a five-euro note that I had failed to use or exchange on our previous visit to Europe. I didn’t have any Euro-coins and didn’t know if there were any attendants at the toll booth or if I needed coins. Rather than take the chance, I took the next exit before the tollway and we soon found ourselves in the city of Drogheda.

Once in the city of Drogheda, it was a nightmare trying to find a place to park. Absolutely every place I tried to park was paid parking and required a pass, but the pass boxes didn’t accept any notes, so my five-euro note was useless. Finally I parked without a pass and we walked around to find a way to change money and get some coins for the toll booth. Eventually I found a small liquor store and the man behind the counter was gracious enough to exchange my five-euro note for some coins.

We walked back to the car, got our one-hour parking pass and started walking again to find a bank. Much to our surprise, the banks were all closed, and that’s when it hit us: it was Saturday so of course they were closed. We should have changed money at the airport!

Next we tried to find an ATM. The ATM was easy to find; just look for the long line of people waiting on the street to get cash. After standing in that line (okay, this is Europe, so maybe it was a queue) a long time (perhaps ten minutes) for the ATM, it finally broke or ran out of money because it started displaying “Out of Service” to anyone who approached it including us. Frustrated, we continued down the street searching for other ATMs, but the other three ATMs we found did not accept my bank card. Now we were getting genuinely concerned about money.

We walked until we found a small shopping mall and went inside. Luckily, one of the department stores had a money exchange center that was actually open. They didn’t take traveler’s checks so we happily exchanged some dollars for euros.

Armed with cash, we started walking back to the car. As we walked, we saw a cute church and decided to go inside, despite the fact that we didn’t have our cameras. It happened to be St. Peter’s Church and it had the gruesome head of Saint Oliver Plunket and other relics from him on full display. We wished we had our cameras, but we were both too tired to walk back and get them.

Our next priority was to find a grocery store so we could buy some water. That was pretty easy, but we were surprised how expensive food was.

Because I had only gotten what seemed like an hour’s sleep (but probably was closer to three) on the plane, I was exhausted. Kathy was, too. We were so tired we could barely stand, but we had a problem: It was only ten o’clock in the morning and we couldn’t check into our hotel until 4:00pm (16:00). Therefore, we decided to fight our tiredness and see a few sites before we headed to our hotel.

While walking on the streets, I had noticed a sign for a large European lottery whose jackpot had grown to many millions of Euros. So as I drove, I told Kathy

that I thought we should get a lottery ticket and try to win. She countered with a very good argument against it: have you ever heard of the luck of the Irish, she asked? Well, how can I possibly hope to compete against a whole country full of them? We laughed and drove on.

We visited a ruined church called Mellifont Abbey which is west of the town of Drogheda. It was pretty cool because there were big Celtic crosses

and a large tower.

Next, we took back-roads until we got to a place called Monisterboice. Very cool.

It's basically a big ruined monastery with what's left of a large octagonal tower.

By this time, we were so very tired we decided we our best course of action was to get to our Bed and Breakfast (B&B) Inn which was in a little seaside town called Blackrock, which is just south of Dundalk on the sea.

We drove there and checked into the B&B, called the Keernaun House.

By the time we got there, however, we were more hungry than tired, so we decided to drive into Blackrock and eat. We popped into a bar called The Brake. Unfortunately, the man told us they didn’t start serving food until 6:00pm.

My body was complaining loudly, growling with hunger, so we popped into an Indian takeout place and ordered a piece of naan bread with chicken, and we sat outside by the sea and ate. It was very yummy. When the naan was gone, we took a short walk, then went back to the bar, drank a pint of beer,

ordered food and ate a nice dinner of seafood (which we split between us).

After dinner, we drove back to the Bed and Breakfast and immediately went to bed, more tired than I can ever remember. I slept from about 7:00pm until 6:30am.