Friday, March 31st through Sunday, April 2nd--Ft Lauderdale airport & home again, back to the airport the next day and on to JFK airport and then on to Galway

Flying to Ireland?; really flying to Ireland; picking up the rental car on a lovely Irish Spring day; driving from Shannon airport up to my hotel in Galway; checking into my apartment; lunch at the hotel; dinner at the Huntsman and a snack run across the street; unpacking & putting stuff away; what do I want to do and where do I want to go while here in Galway?

Mini-apartment at the Connacht Hotel

Silver VW Jetta



The weather at home was wonderful Friday and was quite warm. I was booked on a 2 PM JetBlue flight from Ft Lauderdale with a 4:45 PM arrival at JFK, and then on a 6:30 PM Aer Lingus flight from JFK on to Shannon airport here in Ireland. I had my usual shuttle ride to the airport and had checked in my luggage and was through security and waiting at the departure gate in good time, but about a half an hour before we were supposed to board JetBlue announced that our flight would be delayed even leaving for JFK by at least three hours, making it impossible for me to catch my connecting flight on from there to Shannon and that is Aer Lingus's last flight from JFK to here–they only have two a day from JFK to Dublin and two a day from JFK to Shannon. It was hard to believe but there was a winter storm over JFK that had arriving flights backed up for hours.

This time I didn't have to go all the way back out to the JetBlue desk where I had originally checked in and checked my bags but went to their help desk right by my departure gate. As it did last time, it took the guy who was helping me a call to JetBlue who had to call Aer Lingus before they could get me booked on the same flight on Saturday and a 10 AM flight from home to JFK. And as I decided last time, I chose not to catch my delayed flight to JFK and spend the night there without any clean clothes, even at the airline's expense, but just caught a cab back home again and went out for dinner since I didn't have any fresh food in the house and really didn't feel like having more leftovers which I'd been having for dinner all last week.

Back at the airport, while the JetBlue guy was on hold with Aer Lingus–apparently they had to uncheck me from Friday's flight before he could rebook me on Saturday's–I used my home cell phone to call both the hotel and car rental here in Ireland and let them know I was coming in a day later. Once again reception here at the hotel told me I'd be able to check in as soon as I got here.

For some reason I often don't sleep well the night before I travel anywhere, even if I'm just driving up to St Augustine which is only about 4.5 hours away from home. As usual I hadn't slept well Thursday night and Friday night I couldn't sleep until late and woke up earlier than I needed to. I was back at the Ft Lauderdale airport waiting for my JetBlue flight to JFK quite early, this time in a different terminal and this time the flight was on time. Before I checked in I was sent downstairs to the JetBlue baggage services desk, and confirmed my bags had alredy been sent to today's plane. I think the plane was an Airbus of some kind, and even the normal coach section where I was was quite comfortable and pleasant.

JetBlue wasn't able to give me an Aer Lingus boarding pass but I only had to wait at JFK for 45 minutes or so before the Aer Lingus desk opened up so I just sat on one of the seats downstairs in the baggage area and read for a while. After I got my boarding pass I was then able to spend the next couple of hours hanging out in the Aer Lingus lounge where I had a bit of lunch. I was a little worried at first because right after I checked in at the lounge I had to go back to the desk because there was apparently some confusion where my bags were.

The weather at JFK today was quite decent and my Aer Lingus flight left fairly close to on time. Although the flight from Ft Lauderdale to JFK was full, the flight from JFK to Shannon was quite light. The business class section was less than half full. As usual I couldn't sleep so I read some and watched some videos I'd downloaded to my Kindle and iPhone in case I didn't really like any of the choices available on the in flight entertainment. I even stretched out for a while on the fully reclined seat although I was awake all the time.

The weather at Shannon was lovely when we arrived well before dawn. I was delighted that all three of my bags had indeed been on the same planes as I had been and showed up quite soon after we arrived. The sun was coming up as I was still trying to figure my rental car out. I had been looking at the manual to find out how to adjust the driver's seat and had to go back in to the rental desk to ask for help. For some reason the lever to move the driver's seat forward or back isn't on the right hand side next to the door and the other lever but is on the left side next to the center console under the driver's left leg.

I also spent some trying trying to bring up Google Maps on the less expensive Irish Vodafone I'd bought last summer but apparently I needed to add some more money to reactivate it even though when I had checked at home I still had over 20 Euros left. I finally gave up and decided to just use Google Maps on my new home Sprint iPhone which worked very well.

The first half of the hour or so drive from Shannon airport to Galway is on the M 18, a lovely highway indeed, before it switches to the usual mix of two lane roads sometimes through small towns. Traffic at 8 AM on a Sunday morning was very light, which was good because the route moves inland from Shannon and the further away it got from the coast the foggier it got but it never got very bad at all, just enough to require some additional caution.

I drove past signs for many places I remembered from my grand trip to Ireland this past summer, such as Gort with several places intimately connected with Yeats and a couple of smaller towns I also remembered as well. I got slightly turned around once I got here to Galway because I came into the hotel's neighborhood on the other side of the large regional hospital around the corner. At one point Goggle Maps told me to go down a side street which had a large pile of cardboard blocking the middle. I was fortunate that an older gentleman opened up the gate across his driveway and guided me as I incrementally went back and forth until I could turn around.

I arrived here at the hotel around 9:30 and it was still completely but lightly overcast. This time I'm staying in the same wing where I stayed last July but I'm a floor down in an older but quite pleasant and spacious single bedroom mini apartment with a separate living room with a nice desk which is where my laptop is, and a small kitchenette which I'm probably not going to use much except for the refrigerator and tea kettle and possibly the microwave.

I unpacked for a bit and then lay down for a while and think I might actually have fallen asleep for at least an hour or so, which I don't think will prevent me from sleeping well tonight. I unpacked and organized stuff for a while before taking a shower and changing clothes then having a good if late lunch here in the hotel.

The bedroom and the living area both have doors with automatic closers on them which is a bit of a nuisance and I couldn't find an electrical outlet over by the bed where I wanted to plug in an alarm clock I can see in the dark and there are only two outlets at the desk here in the living area, one of which is already used by the TV and I wanted to plug another clock in here as well as my laptop. After lunch, about 4 PM by now, I stopped by the reception desk to ask where in the neighborhood I could go to buy a couple of extension cords or power strips and a couple of door stops, and they said they'd find a couple of each for me and they arrived here at my room soon after. In fact when the guy came to drop the things off I was in the living area with the door closed and could barely hear him knock at the hall door.

There is a very nice and not expensive bar/restaurant/boutique hotel, the Huntsman about a mile back down the hill from here. I decided not to go very far afield today but to just stick to the local area and find somewhere to buy an Irish SIM vacation package tomorrow instead, so I asked one of my friends at reception here to call down to the Huntsman to make a dinner reservation for me at 7:30. I came back here to my room to just stretch out for a while. Right across the street at the corner is a very good small grocery/convenience store where I was hoping to perhaps buy a small bottle of whiskey or rum and some milk and yogurt or maybe some other snack so I went over about 6:30, stopping to move my car to a more convenient parking spot closer to the side entrance and elevator for this wing. The small store only sells beer and wine but I did pick up a bottle of port, which I discovered only very recently I sometimes like when I tried a bottle of chocolate port made by one of the vendors at the Ren Faire. (This one's quite nice.)

I took a bit of a break here. I needed a short bathroom break so I decided to just go ahead and finish the last bit of unpacking & sorting, hanging up the shirts I'll wear this week and my fleece vest and rain slicker, sorting out the t-shirts to wear with the shirts and putting the rest back into my larger suitcase, and sticking all the electronic cables and chargers I'm not using at the moment (I almost said "currently") into a desk drawer instead of on the small and larger tables where I'd temporarily left them.

About 7 PM I left to walk down to the Huntsman. It was still rather overcast and a bit breezy and cool enough for a sweatshirt or jacket. It's a pleasant stroll down to the Huntsman, which is a very pleasant small corner development across the street from a fancy hotel and spa, the G and just down the street from the nearest movie multiplex which is also quite new looking and fancy. All of this is right next to Lough Atalia, which as far as I can tell from the map connects with Galway Bay.

Dinner was quite good although my waitress could have been a bit more on top of things; from the way she smelled she probably popped out for the occasional smoke. I had ordered the soup of the day, a wonderful seafood & potato chowder, and the fried scampi and she forgot to tell me they were out of the scampi but substituted the fish & chips instead. I like good fish and chips, and this was very good, but she should have asked me first. I finished with a lovely rhubarb and raspberry crumble with vanilla ice cream.

I took a cab for the short ride back up the hill here to the hotel. I had the cabby let me off at the reception desk because I wanted to ask where I could go, preferably in the neighborhood, to buy an Irish SIM vacation package for one of my other cell phones, and I'm glad I did because not only did I learn which mobile phone store the woman on the desk recommended but she also told me the city bus company is currently not operating due to a strike that started last week. I have my own car so that doesn't make too much of a difference to my plans but I'll have to either drive around town myself or rely on cabs. As soon as I have an Irish SIM I'll put the phone #s for Galway's three main cab companies on it.

So where do I want to go and what do I want to do while I'm here in Galway until I move on to Dingle this Saturday? There are still quite a few places on the list I made preparing for this past summer's massive trip I didn't get to then that I'd like to get to this time, such as Tuam definitely and perhaps Clifden and the Sky Road or Oughterard and Aughnanure Castle and Brigit's Garden which are in the area. I'd also like to get out on the water, perhaps out on a cruise tour of Galway Bay itself or Lough Corrib.

I'd love to find somewhere to go hear some trad music while here in Galway but that might have to wait for Thursday or Friday night.

I'll probably also take at least one tour out of town, and have seen a couple that combine the lovely Kylemore Abbey with Connemara and a bit of the Burren. Maybe I'll take another trip out to one of the Aran Islands, although this time I'd drive myself out to the ferry dock which has its own parking near the ticket office.

There's also Galway itself to wander around in. One day when the weather's good I want to take some pictures of the Long Walk and Salthill and the ocean side Prom (Promenade) there to post on Facebook for some of my musician friends from the Ren Faire who came to dinner at my house this past season. Many of us are very fond of a favorite Irish song, "The Galway girl"–which was actually written by Nashville song writer Steve Earle. I even got one of my friends to play it for me during a gig up in St Augustine a few days before he and six other musicians came to dinner the Friday before the last weekend of the Ren Faire.

So tomorrow morning I think I'll either drive into town or to a different branch of a mobile phone store and possibly to a larger grocery store to pick up some rum and whiskey, although I walked past a small off license liquor store down near the Huntsman.

After I have an Irish SIM card for one of my phones I'll see about booking a boat tour and one out to Kylemore and Connemara.

And not surprisingly it's now just after midnight, so that's it for tonight.

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