Hub and I enjoy planning the details of our travels, but sometimes package deals appeal. A friend told me about Travelzoo, offering bargain hotel rates, tickets, and tour packages. Scanning the emails inundating my inbox an Ireland adventure enticed.
The package included round trip air fare, a rental car for a week, hotels with breakfast included, admissions to three tourist attractions, but only one night in Dublin. Since we had no idea when or if we might return, I wanted more time in the city. We decided to stay an extra week. I booked an airbnb in Dublin for our extended stay.
Flights to Europe usually leave in the evening. On one hand a hotel is not needed for the night, but on the other hand hub and I are no longer robust travelers. Following our six hour overnight flight from Kennedy Airport to Dublin, squeezed into Delta Airlines seats meant for younger, skinnier torsos, we exited the plane 9:00 a.m. Ireland time haggard and overtired.
First stop the car rental desk. We thought our insurance covered us, it did not, additional money for insurance bumped up costs.
Most European cars have manual transmissions. We were not going to pay extra for an automatic, or for a diesel. Easier to drive, the car rental rep informed us, better mileage, more room for our luggage, she cajoled. No, we insisted, the small, manual, cheap model works for us.
We locate our car in the garage. Hub slides behind the wheel and as he slowly maneuvers the twisting parking garage exit ramp - the car was on level 6 - he comments, "I haven't driven a manual for at least five years." The car edged its way out of the airport garage and onto the motorway, a multi-lane highway of swift moving cars and trucks. Lots of trucks. Big trucks.
Ireland drives on the wrong side of the road. Or maybe Americans are the ones who drive on the wrong side. The steering wheel is on the right. Those unaccustomed to right-hand wheels must remember in most right-steering countries the driver remains in the center of the road; if on the outside, trouble brews.
Speaking of brew, we look forward to touring a brewery or two. After all, we are in a land brimming with pubs, distilleries and breweries.
Traffic slowed to a crawl. Overhead signs indicated delays ahead. Driving at a snail's pace was good - hub used the opportunity to practice his manual transmission skills - but we were anxious to reach our hotel, a 1 1/2 hour drive. Traffic...trucks...billboards advertising McDonald's and Burger King...industrial buildings bordering the highway...just like home!
Finally turning onto a highway leading out of the Dublin area, traffic eased, but still trucks streamed by. It was not raining, but roads were wet from an earlier downpour. Trucks kicked up water and muck, blocking our windshield, requiring wipers.
About two hours after leaving the airport we entered the city of Kilkenny in search of our lodging. Unsuccessful, we stopped and asked for directions (a concession for hub but we were desperate to reach our destination.)
Our hotel, touted as a short walk from the medieval city center, is about 1.5 miles from the city center. I guess it depends on how you define 'short walk'. Following a night of minimal sleep, wearing the same clothes over 24 hours, needing a shower and a meal, we were not in the mood to walk a mile and a half.
Our commercial-looking hotel (next to a big box shopping center with one restaurant - a KFC) disappointed.
Tired but hungry we drove into the city for lunch. Parking cost a few bucks (euros, actually). Lunch, however, satisfied.
My room key did not work...the hotel is underwhelming...Following a late afternoon nap (sleep, finally!) we walked into the hotel restaurant for a light dinner. The hostess informed us a large group had just arrived, only one chef worked the kitchen, and it would be at least a half hour before we could be seated.
Tomorrow we move on to Limerick. Maybe the hotel will impress. So far the trip confirms my desire to plan our own trips...