Dingle Trifecta, Part 2

Dingle Trifecta, Part 2

Memphis To Detroit-Boston-Shannon

March 7 – 15, 2003 (Page updated June 2, 2003)

1: Trip begins despite war clouds

5: Slea Head Drive

2: Memphis to Detroit-Boston-Shannon

6: Golf at Cheann Sibéal

3: Dingle and Ballydavid

7: Dingle's ancient ruins

4: More Dingle and Ballydavid

8: Bunratty and home

Photo Album

 

                                                                                            

By Lewis Nolan

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Friday, March 7, 2003 – Memphis to Boston

 

Our friend Betty Hoffman kindly drove us to Memphis International Airport, as she has been doing for our international trips for many years. We arrived two hours early, as instructed. The new security screening procedures seemed to be more intense and time-consuming than it was when I flew to St. Petersburg, Fla., just three weeks ago. It must be related to the impending war with Iraq and all the Islamic threats to retaliate with terrorist attacks on America.

 

This is one of the busiest travel days of the year because it is Spring Break at many colleges and schools. Since our original, direct flight to Boston was cancelled, we were not able to obtain seat assignments in advance for the connecting flight through Detroit. A very nice Northwest gate agent immediately recognized that we might not make the tight connection if seated toward the rear of the full airplane. It turned out there were a couple of no-shows in the first cabin so she upgraded us to Business Class for the first leg. I was so impressed with her friendly and helpful demeanor that I wrote a letter of appreciation to an airline exec I know, who assured me my comments would be passed on to her supervisor.

 

We enjoyed the complimentary drinks on the flight. Many of those aboard the plane were well-tanned college students, evidently returning home or to school after a few days on the beach. Some were wearing beads and braids from Jamaica. Also on the flight was fellow Memphian Metcalf Crump, who
Betty with rental car at Ventry
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remembered partying with us over boiled crawfish at a mutual friend’s home in Ocean Springs, Miss., 23 years ago. Metcalf – who was connecting in Detroit for a flight to Paris with his family - and I were members of the Rotary Club. An architect educated at Harvard, he is now Tennessee Consul for France. We passed the time talking about the international situation and our son’s experiences at Harvard Business School.

 

The flight to Detroit arrived on time, a little after 10:30 p.m.The new airport terminal is fabulous in appearance and in efficiency. Its moving sidewalks and overhead tram whisk thousands of passengers around the terminal in minutes. By stepping it out, we made it from Gate 25 to Gate 59 with 10 minutes to spare before boarding for the Northwest flight to Boston started. We would have been in trouble had the Northwest agent not given us seats at the front of the plane.

 

We were fortunate to have exit row seats for the 1 ½-hour flight, which was nearly full of returning Spring Breakers. A pleasant young man – a sophomore at Notre Dame – had the window; how I envied his ability to fall sleep as soon as we were airborne. We got into Boston early and saw a lot of dirty snow on the ground. I made a fruitless stop at the Northwest luggage office to see if my Irish wool cap lost during our flight to Boston last November had turned up.

 

The Boston terminal is undergoing a massive expansion project. It’s a maze of temporary hallways. A heated, glass enclosed, bus shelter provided some protection from the bone-chilling cold.  The driver of the Holiday Inn – Airport shuttle bus groused about the previous day’s blizzard that snarled over 100 cars in a massive pile-up. He said it was the worst winter in 50 years.

 

We were pleasantly surprised at the size and quality of our room on the 10th floor, the nicest accommodations I’ve ever had from Holiday Inn. We got take-out drinks from the bar, watched CNN’s news for a while and retired at 12:30 a.m.

 

Saturday, March 8, 2002 – Boston to Shannon

 

We prepared for tonight’s flight across the Atlantic by relaxing in our hotel most of the morning after a late breakfast delivered by room service. It is a beautiful day in Boston, with blue skies, lots of sunshine and white snow on the open ground and rooftops. We have a high view of a small section of Boston Harbor and can glimpse the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.

 

The roads are clear and traffic is light near our location, about a mile from Logan International Airport. But I’m sure it’s still a mess driving through the central city because of the unending “Big Dig,” Boston’s multi-billion-dollar fiasco to build a subway system through the middle of town. It’s an endless project with staggering cost
Lewis on narrow Slea Head road
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over-runs and measureless lost time and frustration for commuters and others who must drive through Boston.

 

Today’s Boston Globe, a generally excellent newspaper owned by The New York Times Co. (whose flagship TV station is in Memphis and whose CEO, Punch Salzberger, I once interviewed many years ago), is full of news about the march toward war with Iraq. A local story puts the annual impact of Boston’s higher education industry at $7.4 billion. That is the amount generated by 50,000 jobs, tuition, grants and gifts to the metro area’s colleges and universities. They include Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Brandeis, Northeastern, and Boston College. Oddly, the article did not mention student enrollment in total or by school.

 

Even though snow was on the ground, Casey took advantage of the first sunny day with decent temps since December to drive his convertible top down (but windows up) from Cambridge to our airport hotel. It is 46 degrees here, almost a heat wave for this time of year. The Charles River has been frozen bank-to-bank all year. Lunch was a bust. The hotel’s lunch service on this Saturday was limited to the smoky pub. We drove out a few miles but the only restaurants we saw were family Italian and Chinese places. Facing a transatlantic, overnight flight this evening, I demurred the spicy, ethnic foods in favor of takeout burgers from the hotel’s pub. We ate in our room and had a great visit with Casey, talking about his summer plans and campus life.

 

We checked out at 3 p.m. Casey headed back to Cambridge and we boarded the hotel shuttle for the short drive to Logan International. Betty got a laugh from our fellow shuttle passengers when she pointed out our son driving down the snow-lined expressway, convertible top down. We were four hours early for the Aer Lingus flight and whizzed through check-in. We also quickly passed through airport security, where a couple of yokels old enough to know better poked fun at Betty’s Southern accent.

 

With a smile on my face, I challenged them by asking if they were the “welcome to Boston committee.” They were unfazed and still yukked it up. Betty stood them up a bit by asking if they were the Southern bashing committee. It’s odd what little bit of authority can do to people not accustomed to using it; passengers who crack jokes sometimes end up in jail. I don’t know what it is about Logan’s security staff. They were the ones that made such a mess of it by letting the hijackers armed with box-cutting knives through their screening Sept. 11, 2001. The rudeness of two baggage screeners  when we passed through Logan last year was vexing. In fairness, I must say that one of the screeners on this trip, a middle aged woman, seemed to be embarrassed by the boorishness of her associates and went out of her way to be helpful.

 

It was a boring wait for our 7:40 p.m. flight to Shannon. I put a big dent in Stephen Ambrose’s excellent book, “Band of Brothers,” his account of a 101st Airborne Division paratroop company during World War II. Sticking with my low-carb, Atkins’ diet, I had only a patty of beef from a McDonald’s quarter pounder in the terminal.

 

Once our full plane got in the air, I took advantage of Aer Lingus’ complimentary drinks by having two double martinis in lieu of a meal to help me sleep on the long flight. Betty enjoyed a glass of wine and poked at a salad.  Last year, a big tailwind put us in Ireland after 4 hours 55 minutes, very good time. But this time, a different routing for reasons that were not explained took us over the polar ice cap. The flight lasted 6 hours and 23 minutes.

 

Betty and I had an aisle and window seat towards the front of the tourist section. Good seats. The only negative – other than the usual cramped seating – was the periodic coughing explosions of garlic-laden breath from a man a couple of rows to the rear who evidently had dined on strong, ethnic food. 

 

Sunday, March 9, 2003 – Shannon

 

We arrived at Shannon airport in the
Betty at Dingle Peninsula overlook
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southwest of Ireland at 7:30 a.m. local time. We could see through the plane’s windows a dim dawn, with light rain falling over the incredibly green landscape and coastal marshland. Having deplaned in the Shannon terminal before and knowing the layout, we ducked out an unmarked passageway into the departures lounge so I could shave, put on a fresh shirt and eat a ham sandwich. We thus avoided the long lines to pass through customs, retrieve our luggage and get a rental car. We allowed so much time on creature comfort that I had to bang on a door to get the affable Irish customs agents to re-open an inspection gate. No problem. Irish officialdom has been wonderfully helpful to us on each of our four previous trips and this time was no exception.

 

Our Avis rental car was a Nissan Micra. It was an efficient and reasonably comfortable econobox. Unlike previous rentals in Ireland, this little car had an automatic transmission. The golf clubs barely fit in the trunk. It was brand new and very ugly.

 

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