The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
Okay. So, its the holidays, and your mother says
that all she wants for Christmas is to spend some time with you. And
suddenly its February already. And
your mother has retiree airline
employee travel privileges, including Buddy passes. And
the flights to
Even though we were a bit apprehensive about traveling with an octogenarian, I knew Mom was an experienced traveler so I decided to embark on this adventure. The last time I traveled internationally with my mother was about 20 years ago; we went to London with (my then fiancée) BJ and her parents, and almost lost BJs mother on the streets of London. But thats a story for another time. Mom had never been to Ireland, it would be a chance to spend some time with her (see spend some time above) and availability for the flights looked good. We (finally) decided on a Wednesday evening departure, a stay in the area of Shannon, on the west coast of Ireland, and a Monday morning return. This would give us 4 days and 4 nights. I reminded mother that she has Buddy passes and that perhaps shed like to take a friend with her. Jumping at the opportunity, she invited her friend of 40 plus years, bridge partner and previous travel companion, Owana. Five phone calls and 70 questions later, we agreed to meet at the airport, International Check-in, on Wednesday at 5pm. We were there at 5, and so were the ladies, having arrived independently, parked and made their way to our meeting place. This is starting out well! After a painless check in (well, painless for us the woman in front of us was late for the first time in her life and was going to miss her Atlanta to Paris flight, with Tel Aviv as her final destination. I noticed her distress as she started to hyperventilate, so I assured her that there were 3 more flights to Paris, and several more connections to Tel Aviv. I was more speaking from hope than fact, but sometimes its more how you say it than what you say.)
Owana mentioned that
she might need a wheelchair to get to the gate. We
werent sure this was a good sign since our plans for them on the trip involved a bit
of walking. She decided to try it on foot and
made it without any problems. She even
insisted on rolling her own suitcase. By 5:40
we were at the bar nearest our gate, for our 7pm departure.
Plenty of time. Thirty more
questions, and we were at the gate. At
departure time, while collecting our Business Class boarding cards for 4, we learned that
neither of the ladies had signed their passports. (We
were impressed that they actually HAD valid passports and could travel internationally on
a few days notice!) The missing signatures
werent a show stopper, so we got the passports signed, boarded and sat down (Rows 3
and 4) for the evening. The ladies really
enjoyed being pampered by the flight attendants. (That's Mom on the right)
Thursday morning we
arrived in Shannon, cleared customs (Will you stamp the ladies passports,
please?) and stepped out into the Arrivals Hall.
After changing clothes and buying some more Euros at the ATM, we
headed down to Alamo for our rental car
getting there immediately AFTER a party of
10 who were picking up three rental cars. Oh
well. We can wait. Were in no hurry. Weve got 4 days. We eventually picked up our Opel Astra and headed
herself in several more questions as we drove. We
answered the ones we could and made up answers for the ones we didnt know. We arrived in Limerick around 10:00 on Thursday
morning, with more traffic than I would have preferred.
We circled the heart of town looking for familiar sites, or Denmark Street,
where we knew there were hotels. We spotted
the Tourist Information building, and realized where we were with respect to where we
wanted to be and started looking for a parking space.
Unable to locate a convenient spot on the street we pulled into a multi-story public parking lot, left the tired ladies (remember, no sleep on the plane) in the car, found our hotel (now called the Old Quarter Inn and arranged for two rooms for two nights. The receptionist warned us that the rooms were over the pub and may get a little loud on weekend nights, but we were tired too and knew none of us would have a problem sleeping tonight. We explained that the ladies we were traveling with might have trouble with steps so they put us on the first floor. The first floor in Europe is what we in the United States would call the second floor. It was up one flight of steps and there was no elevator. The hotel said we could check in around , so we went back to the car, retrieved Dorothy and Owana, and did a little shopping in the Quay Mall to kill a little time.
Around , we headed to the hotel
to check into our rooms. The ladies grimaced
at the flight of steps, but trooped up to their room without complaint. We left them to nap a bit and struck out to move
the car somewhere cheaper (than 1.50/hour) and have a
beer. Side note: parking in Limerick is a
bit of a problem. Aside from the parking
garages, there are 1 hour zones, two hour zones and 4 hour zones. You buy parking permits at any newsagent and
display the permit on your dashboard. Parking
in a Zone without paying subjects you to being booted and towed. And parking in any of these zones, or in the public
lots, costs up to 36 (over $47) per
day! Thats more than we were paying for
the car! BJ and I drove
outward a bit and found an unregulated parking space in a residential
neighborhood about a quarter mile from the hotel, and parked our car.
Then we headed back to
town center for our first beer in Ireland, a Stella Artois at The Chaplin Bar, followed by
a Heineken at another place; Harp is my favorite, its Irish, but surprisingly hard
to find in Ireland. Around 5pm, we hooked up
with the ladies again. They had napped, then
awoke to find, horror of horrors, no washcloth in the room or even available at the
hotel!! So they headed out on their own and
shopped for washcloths. BJ and I had scouted
out a couple of nearby restaurants, so that wed have a choice to offer the tired
travelers. For the first night, we agreed on
an early dinner at The Green Onion where we enjoyed chicken caesar salads, penne pasta
with chorizo in pink sauce and tagliatelle with sun dried tomatoes and pecans. Owana had a variety of nicknames for me on the
trip, including Daddy. She told
the waitress that her daddy would be picking up the check.
She referred to BJ mostly as The Maid.
BJ convinced Owana and
Dorothy that they should at least try a glass of Guinness, so they went into the bar next
to our hotel, while I ran upstairs to grab a KinderEgg that BJ had purchased earlier. Seating the ladies next to the door, BJ went to the
bar to order up the nightcaps and noticed only one other patron, who moved over to sit
with the ladies.
While drawing up the
Guinesses, the bartender explained to BJ that the fellow, Mark, had lost his girlfriend to
suicide back in November, and that he had been in here every night since then. When BJ arrived at the table, she found Mark in
discussion with the ladies; his slurred speech peppered with that favorite Irish
non-expletive that we refer to as the F-word.
Dorothy and Owana offered him some advice (including some pointers on
cleaning up his language).
The ladies made several
polite attempts to get him to leave, including Owana saying that her husband was on his
way to the pub. After several minutes of
listening to his tales, BJ explained that perhaps Mark should move on, since the ladies
didnt really like his use of that word.
Mark gallantly shook hands with the ladies and then feigned a handshake for
BJ, yanking his hand back as she reached for it. Then
he made his way to the door and fumbled with the handle which he seemed to be incapable of
opening. He backed up a couple of feet and
threw himself out the door of the pub, falling to the ground and rolling away, just as I
was walking up to the door. I assumed that a
bouncer had thrown him out of the door, so I was surprised to see only BJ and the two
ladies seated near the door. After beers, it
was time for bed. We were all tired so we knew
that wed sleep through the noise from the pub below.
Friday morning, at
breakfast, BJ and I commented on how we had both heard the music start around 10pm, but
that we both were able to get right back to sleep. Apparently
not our lady friends, however. Dorothy and
Owana both complained about how the music lasted until after 1am. Thats two days now without much sleep for
them. We all enjoyed our Full Irish breakfasts
and decided that today we would split up.
BJ and I were going to
take a walk along the River Shannon, to get our exercise and let the ladies shop, check on
taking an organized tour the next day, and spend some time in the casino we had seen. (Owana loves the slots!). We agreed to hook up at the hotel around 5pm, and
BJ and I headed out. There is a waymarked
trail, called the Loch Derg Way, that leads to the largest inland lake in Ireland. The trail starts out just beyond the
We started out walking
the trail, planning to walk a couple of hours, then head back. We passed the ruins of several castles.
At one point, we took a
wrong turn, off the Loch Derg way, but continuing on another trail.
The scenery along the
river was breathtaking.
The GPS wasnt
able to see enough satellites to acquire a lock on our position, so we werent sure
if we were on the right trail or not, but when we went through a livestock gate and into a
pasture, we started to think we might be lost. Right
in the middle of the pasture though, there was another castle so we decided to keep going.
Almost like we planned
it, around , we emerged from the
pasture trail into the lovely
After a beer, BJ and I
started back for
We got back to town
around 4pm, after 11 ½ miles for the day, checked on our car to make sure it was okay,
then enjoyed another beer at Smiths before meeting up with the ladies. As we were enjoying our last few quiet minutes
alone together, it started to rain in earnest. All
day, it had been gray and overcast but the rain had stayed away during our walk. At the hotel, we hooked back up with Dorothy and
Owana and decided we would eat at the Chinese restaurant next door to our hotel, since it
was still raining. Dorothy was a bit
reluctant, not being much of a fan of Chinese food, but the weather dictated that we stay
close by. Dinner was wonderful! The Z-wee-ton won Dorothy over with its excellent
food, fast service and reasonable prices.
The ladies told us
about their wonderful day traipsing around town, but that there would be no organized
tours until April. Off to bed after dinner and
wine, it was another loud night that had the ladies complaining about the noise
downstairs; thats three nights without good sleep.
Saturday morning, during our full Irish breakfast, BJ and I decided wed take Dorothy and Owana for a tour ourselves. Wed head north to Ennis, then west to the Cliffs of Moher, and swing by Doolin, the music center of Ireland. While we enjoyed our breakfast on the porch at the Old Quarter, the sun came out for the first time in two days. BJ and I went to find the car, while the ladies finished packing. Then we loaded up and headed out for the 25 mile drive to Ennis. We parked on the street in Ennis so we could do a little shopping.
Then we decided to
continue our drive (we had thought about getting a room here for 2 nights, but the day was
so pretty and sunny, we thought we should take advantage of it while we had it and drive
on out to the coast.) We left Ennis,
backtracking on the road the BJ and I had walked/hitchhiked on last time we were here. This led us though Lisconnor and Lahinch and to the
Cliffs of Moher. It was very rewarding to hear
Dorothy and Owana ooohing and aaahing over the scenery as we drove (interspersed of
course, with some of Dorothys 20 questions). In
more than a half dozen trips to
The ladies wanted to
walk to the top (which certainly surprised me
its a tough walk) so we headed
At the top, we were
able to see all three
After enjoying the
view, we returned to the car and headed over to Doolin, where we would enjoy lunch (soup
and toasts, with a pint) and later spend the night. We
checked in at the lovely DoonMacFeelim House B&B, dropped our bags then headed back
out for a drive along the rocky west coast (BJ, Page and I had biked this drive several
years ago, so we knew it held lovely views).
We stopped for an
afternoon beer in Ballyvaughn. We enjoyed the
warm fire as a brief rain peppered down outside.
It soon stopped raining
and we completed our round trip back to Doolin. In
Doolin, we headed to McDermotts for dinner and a pint, only to find that they
wont be serving food for a few more weeks (meaning April
tourist season). So we downed a pint and drove
down a bit and across the street to McGanns. There
we enjoyed soup, fish and chips and baked cod. Then
it was back to the DoonMacFeelim House for a final glass of wine
and a kinderegg. This time without any drama; and without any late
night pub sounds below. Finally, the ladies
Sunday morning, at
breakfast, we decided that wed spend the day in the car, touring the countryside,
trending back towards Ennis. We knew Ennis
would put us in range of
We started out toward
an attraction that we had passed before, somewhere, called Aillwee Cave http://www.aillweecave.ie/ . The drive took us along beautiful streams, fields,
rock walls and valleys. We passed sheep,
horses and cows.
After a bit of winding
around, we located the
After stretching our
legs, everyone decided that we werent really interested in exploring geology of the
Burren, so we packed back into the car and headed to Kinvara for lunch. After lunch, we decided to track down another site
that we had seen referenced by road signs, the Burren Perfumery http://www.burrenperfumery.com/. This was another circuitous drive, but we were
finally successful locating the building.
Inside we viewed a
short video of the flora of the Burren and then the ladies sampled several unique
perfumes. Then it was back to the car for a
leisurely drive to Ennis. Back in town, we
checked in at the Old Ground Hotel, a lovely full-service hotel that BJ and I had stayed
at before. We split up for a while, so the
ladies could rest while BJ and I explored Ennis (had a beer). At Brogans Pub, we learned that there would
be music in the pub at 7:30. This seemed
relatively early, although we were later told that Sunday is the night that many folks
bring their parents into town so its not unusual.
Around 6pm, we hooked back up with Dorothy and Owana at Brogans, and
enjoyed fish and chips for dinner. Around
7:30, several musicians started up playing, and by 8pm, there were 4 fiddlers, a
guitarist, two flute players, and accordian player and a drummer. (actually, the drummer was a fellow named Jim that
we had talked to last time we were in town. Small
After the third tune,
Dorothy leaned over and told BJ that it all sounds the same. Not 30 seconds later, Owana leaned over and
whispered to BJ that it all sounds the same
so it was time for bed. Being in bed before 10pm was okay, since wed
be back up at 5:30 Monday morning for our 8:30 return flight.
The hotel prepared a
small continental breakfast for our early departure. We
made it back to Shannon in plenty of time for our return flight on Monday morning and were
thankfully boarded in Business Class for a quick trip over to Dublin, then a long flight
back to Atlanta, arriving about 30 minutes early. Owana's final nickname of the trip
for me was Tarzan. "Tarzan, can you please get my bag out of the overhead
We said goodbye to our tired but happy travel companions at the Atlanta airport. All in all, a great trip!
So, if at the holidays, your mother says that all she wants for Christmas is to spend some time with you AND shes as much fun as Dorothy and Owana, I would have to say, make sure her passport is valid (and signed) and take her to Ireland! (Ill bet you could even talk Dorothy and Owana into going with you.)
BJ and Tony Morris