Here I am at the truly lovely Westport Plaza hotel … which I actually categorized immediately as a ‘Peter & Conrad’ hotel (it’s a compliment, either way you take it)… which thoughtfully provides broadband. Ahh. I’ll be here until I depart to head back down to the Shannon airport, so probably I’ll post a few times and catch up on my doings. Hence, beginning with the beginning….

Descending into Shannon Airport the fog was so thick you couldn’t see anything at all until we were very nearly on the ground. And, it was raining quite hard – but it would be, wouldn’t it? The customs man there as well was quite inquisitive and I am sorry to say that I made another rather poor showing for the States. I had a bit of trouble making out what he was saying – but rather thought he wanted to know if I walked at home … was this a bit of casual banter? Ah no, rather an inquiry after my employment status, if I worked in the States. I feel certain he and the other people I spoke to that night would have had ample evidence to shore up a theory on the stupidity of Americans; and may even have been surprised that I could hold down a job. Alas, what can you do.

After that I picked up the car, and got the extended insurance (which in retrospect was very prudent, more on that later but rest assured no one, including myself, has suffered any harm). Nothing like driving on the left, in a car you don’t know, on pitch black roads, in the rain. With construction reroutes. A couple of times I nearly panicked, but after a few loops around the Ennis town center, I found a spot to park, hauled in my baggage, and checked in. Fast forward to a few more loops getting to the hotel parking lot, and then finally giving up and parking along the street just down. They had just finished up some renovation or other in the lobby area, so the elevator was temporarily out; and a large group, maybe a dozen, very jovial men were all trying to check in at once. You can imagine. Also, in Irish hotels it seems quite standard that you put your key in a little thingie by the door which keeps the power flowing to your room; very energy efficient and all, but the lad at the desk (very friendly) didn’t tell me, I’m pretty sure, and the timer went off just as I plugged in my laptop – causing me to fear I’d somehow blown a fuse. After that I just laughed at everything. It was a comedy of errors, though really through no fault of the hotel (which was quite nice actually). By the time I sat down to some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness (of course) in their very cute pub, I was quite tired. I turned in pretty early that night so as to be up and at it promptly the next morning.

Driving is a real experience. At first, it took constant vigilance to stay along the left, and even more so to look right for oncoming traffic. But it did get easier and on the whole, I think I am doing OK with it now. Mostly. It seems slowcoaches like myself often get passed, or pull over to allow faster cars to go ahead – which I’ve been doing a fair bit of. Most roads are one lane, each way, with a generous sprinkling of potholes and a lot of ominous traffic signs, and the bigger lorries and buses which inevitably hurtle past the other direction on a blind curve. It’s kept my heart rate up a good bit, that’s for sure. A lot of times, though, when I’ve not been on the main national roads or highways, I’ve been nearly alone. Again, mostly good – but more to come there.

I’ll pick up there later. In the meantime, I’ve uploaded some photos on Flickr, into their very own little set, if you want to take a gander.