Ireland Revisited – 2010

  Drive Over Connor Pass to Shannon

May 2 – 12, 2010

 

Part 1: Flights from Memphis to Shannon

Part 7:  Shopping in Town of Dingle

Part 2: Drive to Dingle on Southwest Coast

Part 8:  Beautiful Sights near Slea Head

Part 3: Holden Leather, Dingle Golf Links

Part 9:  Drive Over Connor Pass to Shannon

Part 4: Ballydavid, Historic Brandon’s Creek

Part 10: Shopping in Shannon, Flights Home

Part 5: Playing Golf at Cheann Sibeal

Link to 2003 Trip to Dingle and Vicinity

Part 6: Slea Head Drive, Mulcahy Pottery

Link to 2002 Trip to Dingle and Vicinity

 

- Updated June 26a, 2010

 

About 30 photos mainly taken by Betty Nolan are posted at www.kodakgallery.com in an album entitled “Ireland – 2010” under the account of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email lewis_nolan@yahoo.com for instructions on how to access.

 

By LEWIS NOLAN

 

May 11, 2010 – Tuesday - Drive over Connor Pass by way of Abbeyfeale to Shannon, Ireland

 

We started out last, full day in Ireland with another wonderful buffet breakfast at the Dingle Skellig Hotel. I had my usual, delicious meal of two poached eggs, three pieces of Irish bacon, two small pieces of brown bread with Irish butter, several slices of cantaloupe, a banana and small glass of tomato juice. It was a great way to start a busy day. It was cloudy but at least it wasn’t raining.

 


 

 

Betty Nolan by overlook of beautiful Atlantic Ocean from narrow, winding Slea Head Road cut into cliffs on Southwest Ireland Coast

 

Betty did her always great job of packing our clothes and gear while I read the day’s issue of the fine Irish Times newspaper. It has an entirely different approach to reporting the news than the major newspapers in the U.S. It carries a lot of copy about Europe’s massive effort to stabilize the slumping Euro currency. While the effect on our travel is slight, the net result is that our spending money is going a bit further as the Euro weakens against the U.S. dollar.

 

With porter help from hotel staff (and after paying our room charges for meals and drinks for the week of over 600 Euros), we loaded up our rental SUV and pulled out of the Dingle Skellig shortly after 10 a.m. Predictably given the sometimes confusing and missing Irish road signage, we had to back track a bit to get on the right road that would take us to the high pass over Connor Mountain that protects Dingle.

 

As we had in previous visits, we drove without incident on the sometimes narrow, winding roads and only stopped at a turnout to take photos of the magnificent views. Driving on the main highway – N21 - through the good-sized town of Tralee was challenging. Traffic was heavier than the roadways and signals were built to handle, with multiple converging lanes at several key intersections. We drove on to the small town of Abbeyfeale and re-visited its notable greyhound pet shop.

 

Betty remembered previous visits to the store and dealing with a pleasant young man working there as a clerk in what seemed to be a family business. She purchased an exquisite, tabletop sculpture of two racing greyhounds to be donated to the Mid-South Greyhound Adoption program at the dog racing track in West Memphis, AR for its annual auction fund-raiser. I purchased two flashy bracelets (one for her and one for the adoption program’s charming director, Vicki Cohen) decorated with rhinestones made in shapes of hearts and the word “gray.”

 

The store’s clerk and also its evident owner, a woman we presumed was the owner, were very accommodating to us. They packed the purchased sculpture in a box for air travel.

 

Thankfully, the traffic on Highway N21 outside Tralee got lighter the farther away from the town we drove. Eventually as we neared the regional population center of Limerick, our route turned into what the Irish call “Dual Carriageways,” their version of American Interstate highways divided into four lanes. Much of Ireland’s major highway system has been rebuilt to such standards in recent years with the help of European Economic Community funds. But the country roads in the southwest and other rural areas remain primitive by U.S. comparison.

 

A lot of ongoing road construction on the route we followed meant we were wrapped around much of the city of Limerick’s industrial area before we finally got on the right road (N18)  to the Shannon Airport. We did pass by the tourist center of Bunratty, where we previously stayed to tour an ancient castle and also a reproduced, 19th Century village.

 

By pure luck, we pulled off the highway at a service station at Shannon to fill the SUV’s tank with diesel fuel and asked for directions to the Oak Wood Arms Hotel. It happened to be next door and no more than 10 minutes from the big airport at Shannon. We were ever relieved.

 

It turned out that our pre-paid room reserved by our Memphis travel agent was large and comfortable. It had two beds, a big desk, Internet connection and high-definition, cable TV. Once settled in, I took my mid-afternoon nap while Betty did her customary organization magic on our gear. The news on television reported that air travel out of Shannon to the U.S. was normal on this day and was expected to continue that way the next morning.

 

The TV news programs were all but dominated by the sudden resignation of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and end of England’s rule by the Labour Party for many years. While generally boring to me, the relentless coverage of Brown’s exit and new PR David Cameron’s entrance pointed to just what a big deal a change in government is in this part of the world.

 

I was struck by the fact that this episode is the 13th change in government that Queen Elizabeth has worked through since her coronation as Queen. I stayed home from California’s David Lubin Elementary school to watch the ceremony on TV in 1953. That came at a time when my family home in Sacramento, CA, was the first in the neighborhood to have a TV. We had an antenna on the roof, a tall linking of aluminum tubes that picked up signals from San Francisco broadcasters 100 miles to the west at the time.

 

As little as I like to admit it, I frankly had not even a clue on this day about the differences between the political imperatives and philosophies of the outgoing Labour Party and the incoming Conservative and coalition-linked support parties of British government. I remain a big fan of former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Labour, who seemed to be a world colossus in his day a few years back and fully the intellectual nd public speaking equal of U.S. President Bill Clinton.

 

Realistically, I also think it would be very hard to intellectually explain the meaningful differences between the main-line philosophies of America’s Democrat and Republican parties, no matter how hard the masters of “sound bites” of extremes on both sides try to make their cases.

 

We ate dinner earlier than normal, at 6 p.m. Our meals were OK – but not great – and were served as “bar food” due to the day of the week and time of day. I had some pretty good sea bass served with indifferent spinach but a few French fries that pleased.  Betty had some so-so, fried prawns dredged in flour and butter. We split a tasty crème brulee.

 

We thought the Oak Wood Arms – decorated in dark woods like a 19th Century Gentleman’s Club  with some decorations of historic aviation memorabilia (probably due to the goodly number of international flight crews who overnight there) – was nice. The price arranged by our travel agent was reasonable and we’ll probably stay there again in the future.

 

My only complaint of any gravity was the inpenetrable, English plumbing in the bathroom that made a decent water temperature in the shower all but impossible. Oddly, the hotel desk had no stamps to sell that were needed to mail government-required forms to obtain refunds for VAT (value added taxes) we paid for eligible purchases. The taxes paid were refunded for items shipping overseas.

 

(Continue with Part 10, Shopping in Shannon, Flights Home)  /  (Return to Nolan Travels Home Page)