Day 1: Wednesday May 14 and Thursday May 15, 2014 (OK, days 0 and 1)
Our tickets had us departing Dulles International for Newark at about 3pm on Wednesday to arrive there 2-3/4 hours before departure for Shannon Airport, Ireland at about 7:30pm. Arrival at Shannon scheduled for about 7am local time on Thursday.
We were at Dulles plenty early at about 1pm (thanks to Janet!). We checked the yellow monsters and watched, a little anxiously, as a DHS person went through one of them, then off on the conveyor they went.
An uneventful pass through security and to the gate for us, no problems. It was all downhill for United Airlines after that, though.
One delay after another until departure finally set for nearly 6pm. We were no longer going to make the connection at Newark. No help from the gate folks or United “customer service” at Dulles. We found some alternate routes through Heathrow online, on the iPad, and K got United on the phone to book us a new itinerary. The best they could do was a 10pm flight to Heathrow arriving London at about 11am local, Thursday, and a 3pm Aer Lingus flight from there arriving Shannon about half 4.
Funny story: K asked the phone person at United what they could do to compensate us for losing all of the first day of our holiday. The silly woman’s suggestion was to extend our vacation for a day – she’d gladly change our return trip date at no charge. Yikes.
We scooted across Dulles – along with another family on the same itinerary – hoping to get on the earlier 6pm Heathrow flight, but that was a bust. Either no seats were available, or it was just too late in the process for the gate crew to adapt. So we had a Potbelly sandwich and sat about in the Vino Volo wine bar until time for the 10 o’clock plane.
The flight was uneventful, though a bit cramped. Not much sleep and very tired on arrival. With hours to kill at Heathrow we ate a little, sent some postcards, and tried to arrange for our luggage (which did not follow us to London) and to update Hertz on our new arrival time.
Aer Lingus was slightly delayed on departure, but got us into Shannon just after 5pm. We filed a report on our missing suitcases with the very helpful Aer Lingus man, who hoped we’d have them Friday morning.
Thankfully, Hertz had saved our reservation and shiny new VW Golf turbo-diesel was waiting for us.
It looked great, except for the wrong-side driver’s seat, but that we could handle. Unfortunately it wouldn’t idle. After 10 seconds sitting still, the engine quit. This happened in Park or in gear. Disconcerting. K checked with the rental guy and found it was supposed to do that. Saves fuel. Just lift off the brake when you’re ready to move on and the engine automatically restarts.
With a little trepidation about driving on the left side of the road and getting waaay too close to things on the passenger side, including curbs, we followed the GPS instructions to Ennis. We got there in about 30 minutes and wiggled through some tiny town streets to the Old Ground Hotel by about 7pm.
We unpacked the few things in the carry-on and showered, which went a long way toward bringing us back from a sorry state. It was too late to do much, but we popped over to the pub attached to the hotel and got some refreshments. Called the Poet’s Corner, it turned out to be one of our favorite pubs of the trip.
K discovered a lovely beer called Smithwick’s (usually pronounced Smittick’s) – a reddish ale which became her staple through the trip, and I had my first (and second) Guinness and a fair plate of fish n chips. A very cozy spot and highly satisfying.
So ended day 1.