Ireland trip, first leg

Gordon and I left for LAX Thursday afternoon after making sure the cats would be looked after. We had no trouble going through security and the LONG plane ride was uneventful. I watched three–or maybe four–movies that I’d been curious about but was too cheap to pay for. My instincts were right; Angry Birds and Hail Caesar! were boring. I got my money’s worth. Can’t even remember the other two. The airline fed us calorie-laden crap to keep us quiet and I drank lots of water to avoid dehydration. I noticed I didn’t have to pee once during the entire flight. We landed at Terminal 3 at Heathrow and trudged over to Terminal 2 to catch an Aer Lingus flight to Shannon. We had to go through security again. I sailed right through and said, “Yippee!”–I always feel like I’ve passed a test when I don’t get stopped–but Gordon got the full treatment. He had to take off his belt, his shoes, his pockets were emptied…I was afraid he was going to have to strip down to his underwear, there wasn’t anything left to take off. He got sent through the full-body scan and they finally let him through. I asked what the problem was and he said the machine focused on his sweaty armpits. The guy next to me murmured, “That’s some sweat.” I told him Gordon was a mighty man. Gordon got dressed and we left to get our rental car at Enterprise.

The young lady gave us a Ford Focus diesel hatchback which was perfect for our needs. Gordon was having trouble getting his GPS to work (apparently that’s common when landing on another continent) so she took his phone, clicked on a few things, and called the program up. She’d been so helpful that we were amenable when she asked if we wanted “Tyres and mirrors insurance’. We thought she was just trying to sucker some gullible tourists but she’s been so nice about the phone I said we’d buy her insurance. Boy, was I glad we had. I knew we’d have trouble adjusting to driving on the opposite side of the road but I had no idea how narrow Irish roads were. We were forced by the side of the road by trucks and Range Rovers and we scraped the tyres against the curbs. The roads were also hemmed by rock walls covered in foliage. We almost lost a mirror scraping against the foliage, trying not to hit passing vehicles. And, of course, I’d flinch every time we came upon another car. All my instincts were screaming that we should get in the ‘right’ lane. Gordon had a trying time but he came through like a trooper. As I said, he’s a mighty man. Dromoland (dro-MO-land) Castle, our first stop, was only ten miles away, thank God. We pulled up and checked in.

Dromoland Castle is now a luxury hotel/golf resort but when it was built in the 1500’s it was the seat of the O’Brien clan in County Clare (O’Brien relatives in SoDak, take note). It’s an impressive pile of rock complete with suits of armor in the lobby. They asked if we wanted dinner in their restaurant that evening and we said, “Sure!” We unpacked, got cleaned up, dressed up, and went to the bar to have our “Welcome” glass of champagne (I drank Gordon’s, can’t waste a thing) while we waited for our time. The couple next to us at the bar were from Kansas and I mentioned that Gordon had been in Kansas Rock & Roll hall of fame band. The husband said, “Oh my God. Were you with the Flippers?” Gordon had a fan in Dromoland Castle in Ireland! I think meeting an ex-Flipper made their day, they remembered going to a lot of shows in their youth. Gordon got a kick out of it too; he has ageing fans everywhere. Then it was time for dinner. Oh, one short note: I was glad I insisted Gordon pack a sport coat “just in case” when I saw a man trying on jackets as we were going into dinner. He hadn’t brought one and he couldn’t dine without. He was a big man and they were struggling to find something that fit him. I gave Gordon a dig in the ribs and whispered, “See?” Sometimes I’m right.

I’d heard that Dromoland Castle had a 4 star restaurant and it lived up to it’s reputation. I had the hake (fish) and Gordon had lamb chops and they were both excellent. The service was superb–very white-glove, I had to behave myself. The harpist who accompanied dinner was wonderful and we applauded when she finished for the evening. It was altogether a wonderful dining experience.

We slept well in our king-sized bed in the charming room. The plumbing was old but that was the only cavil I had about our space. We had breakfast at the castle (included, can’t waste a thing) and left to tour Ennis. We were going to see Limerick but Tom, the car parker said it was ‘rubbish’. Ennis is a lovely Medieval town. We were curious about the Church of Ireland (was Elizabeth still head of the Church?) so we stopped in at the local library. The librarian was ready for questions. He was usually asked about family records–most Americans are there to trace their families–so he was surprised at our question. He said sharply that he ‘wasn’t a believer so he didn’t know anything about the Church of Ireland’. I just said we’d google it and left. I think he was disappointed; he’s been ready to pull out some record books.

We bought some sweaters at Ennis; we’d left lots of room in our luggage because we knew we’d be cold. I also bought a cap which reminded of one I’d worn years ago in San Francisco and ruined when I spilled mustard on it. I was glad I’d gotten the cap. I caught a mother of a cold and the cap kept my head warm. We went back to the castle for a nap and spent the rest of the afternoon touring the castle grounds. The hiking path followed the golf course; the picture Gordon took of me with the castle in the background was at one of the top tees. We found a back trail and finished our hike without getting hit in the head by a golf ball. If we go back, I might take the time to rent a boat or go horseback riding (although I’m allergic to horses). We had dinner at the pub next to the golf course and went to bed early. We were tired and a big day ahead of us.

Picture of me and Dromoland Castle in background and a church in Ennis.

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About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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