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Arrival, Customs and Visiting

April 30, 2008
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A View of Ireland’s Atlantic Coast

corey says…It’s a great sign when you arrive in Ireland and need to put on your sunglasses. It’s brisk and windy with temperatures at about 12 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit), but comfortable and suprisingly sunny.

My friend Tony (the guy who just spent the last few years renovating his cottage one valley over from ours) traveled with me. We hopped the bus from Milwaukee to O’Hare and arrived early as usual. We were the very first people in line at 2pm. Check-in for Aer Lingus doesn’t begin until 3:15, but by 3:05 the agents called us up and by 3:15 we were handing off our bags.

With the sweet Eastern European girl checking us in, I felt like I was already in Ireland (the Polish have taken on most of the service jobs in Ireland…and tend to be very attentive to providing good service). She had to do a little finagling to get us seats together.

When she asked, “How do you feel about Emergency Row seats?” I almost jumped up and down with excitement. For anyone over 5 feet tall, the exit rows are the most coveted seats outside of first class…there is actually leg room!

We handed off our luggage, and the agent noticed Tony’s Gold Circle Club tags. “Are you Gold Circle?” she asked…almost apologizing that we had waited in the “general passenger” line.

“No, it expired,” Tony explained. Aer Lingus has become very stingy with their Gold Circle Membership. The only way to really get any benefits is if you fly first class or fly four times a year. And even then, the only benefits seem to be getting to cut in line, getting your luggage to come off the carousel first (which it rarely does) and gaining access to the VIP lounge (free cocktails, snacks, newspapers and internet access).

“For $30 each, anyone can enjoy the lounge,” the agent told us. After spending a portion of our busride to the airport talking about how tight our money would be this summer, we knew the VIP lounge was one luxury we didn’t need to splurge on.

CARRY-ON INSPECTION
After handing off our luggage, we were just about ready to head to security, when the agent asked us to present our carry-ons. I noticed the other agents were also being particularly diligent about checking the carry-ons today…even requiring a special tag be placed on them.

My bag looked like it might be slightly oversized, so she asked me to set it on the scale. My heart sank, I had just spent the last five minutes pretending like my bag was filled with feathers…rather than the heavy camera and podcast equipment I packed. It measured in at 28 kg…”You just made it,” the she said as she attached the orange and green tag.

Tony and I made our obligatory stop at duty free to pick up a few things. The price of Alcohol is pretty high in Ireland, so we have been certain to pick up any bottles we plan to present as gifts from Duty Free before we leave.

SPEEDY & SECURE
Security at O’Hare on this day was particularly smooth. There was absolutely NO line. Now, the lines usually move quite swiftly there, but I’ve never had a no-waiting situation.

After almost leaving my passport and boarding pass on the table next to the x-ray bins, I made it to the other side, and Tony was right behind me. Now it was just a matter of waiting to board.

ON BOARD
We settled in to our spacious exit row seats (the only disadvantage is that people with infants are always placed in the middle aisle next to the exit row seats… fortunately, today’s infants were silent almost the entire trip.

Everything else went as expected. I ordered the beef ravioli (or lasagna…depending on which flight attendant makes the announcement)…which I’ve found to taste much more like a real meal than the chicken.

Then it was off to sleep. I slept well this time. In fact, I slept right through the early morning tea and ham croissant… which I always regret eating anyway.

DECLARATION & RENTALS
We landed in cloudy Dublin and dropped off most of the passengers in Dublin…and picked up a few more. Then we flew toward the clear skies in Shannon.

As we flew over Lough Derg, the clouds began to clear. It really was as if the clouds were parting for our arrival. After 58 consecutive days of rain last summer, every drop of sun is a welcome sight.

Being in the exit row also meant that we were numbers 3 and 4 off the plane, so we were also the first through customs. Where they ask the usual questions…

“When do you leave?”

“June 25th.”

“Why are ye here?”

“Holiday.”

Then the customs agent stamped my passport. and I was ready to collect my luggage.

We passed through the green “nothing to declare” channel and were in the arrivals hall in no time. (Note to travelers, most people who need to go through the Red/something to declare channel are already aware of that, so unless you’re bringing in a suitcase of money or boxes of goods for resale, you’ll likely belong in the Green Channel.

Picking up the keys to the car rental was a breeze. Of course, waiting for the van to pick us up to take us to the rental lot took a bit longer than expected. When we reached the lot, the attendant found our car parked in by another vehicle. With the help of another attendant, he pushed (literally, pushed) the car out of the way. It was a bit harrowing for me to squeeze the car out of its tight spot, but I managed.

WHERE ARE ALL THE CARS
Traffic was a breeze today. In fact it seemed more like a Sunday morning than a Tuesday. This was a bit strange, considering the last few times I had to drive through Limerick…I ended up stuck in traffic for a bit.

Driving on the left came back to me quickly, and the roundabouts have proven to be second nature to me. I was actually relieved that traffic was light…with it being my first day back and being tired from the flight, I liked not having to concentrate quite as much.

I dropped Tony off at his cottage in Glown. The place looks great with lots of work being done to it since I saw it last October.

Then it was off to Knockahopple where everything seemed to be in order. I got a roaring fire going…the chimney was a bit damp, so it took a little while.

A WEE BIT OF VISITING
The cottage was looking pretty good when I arrived. The water had been shut off outside because of leaking pipe outside, so that’s a project for the upcoming days. In the meantime, we’ll just be wasting a few drops of water.

Then it was down to visit Liam’s cousin down the road. Tony joined me, and we were catching up on all the details of Knockahopple. Both Tony and I were getting drowsy and decided to try going for a walk. Oddly the sunny skies turned cloudy and there were about 20 minutes of downpour. Not sure where it came from, but as quickly as it arrived, it disappeared.

Now, I’m falling asleep at the computer, so I guess it’s time for me to get some rest!

I’m using the dial-up connection from the cottage, so I’ll have to wait a day or two before I can start posting some photos.

This Week’s Photo Album
My Ireland Expense Report

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ned permalink
    May 1, 2008 9:19 AM

    What kind of a price did you get on your airfare?

    Have a good trip.

  2. May 1, 2008 5:46 PM

    Tickets came to about $825 after taxes. That was Chicago to Shannon.

    So far the trip is going well.

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