It was actually only partly cloudy when I left Killarney this morning but got much more fully overcast as I drove inland.
I woke up about 8 AM this morning and took a shower before finishing packing. I called the box office for Bunratty shortly after they opened at 9:30 this morning to see if there was anything going on this evening, either the banquet in the castle or the Irish evening in the Folk Barn but the Irish evening wasn't going on tonight and in fact might not have started up yet for this year and although there would be a banquet in the castle tonight at the time they wouldn't know if there were any tickets available until they had heard from a last tour group. I decided that since I'd been to the castle banquet this past July I'd just spend a quiet evening here in my hotel room, although I really enjoyed the banquet when I went.
I finished packing the car shortly after 10 AM. Since my room was pretty close to the elevator and I'd parked almost as close as possible to the elevator down in the car park, I took a couple of trips to take everything downstairs with my two suitcases and hat box in one load and my book pack, shopping bag with my loose electronics and my remaining Slimfast, juice, sparkling water, rum & Bushmills honey and Chris's cane in the last trip.
Exiting the Park Place Apartments' parking structure was not a lot of fun and reminded me why I had decided to pretty much just leave the car there almost the entire time I was in Killarney. I had to incrementally back up, move forward, back up again, move forward again, until I could actually get out of the space where I had parked and then into the exit lane. The car's proximity alarms kept going off almost the whole time until I was back out on the street.
The apartments don't really have a set down/loading & unloading spot although right by the entrance to the parking structure is a fairly large place where apparently the garbage pickup trucks come to empty the trash and recycling. It looks like most people going to the Polish grocery there in the building and the apartments' reception desk just pull up onto the curb to park. I decided to not do that but pulled into the area near the gate to where the trash and recycling bins are instead.
I had paid in advance when I checked in so technically I didn't need to go into the office at all but could just have left my key cards in the unit itself but I prefer the last human touch of letting whoever's working know I was leaving and that if I'm ever back in Killarney I'll probably stay there again. Maia, the same woman who was working when I checked in last Wednesday was also working when I left. She's rather attractive and very good looking and has what seems to me like a charming Irish accent. We chatted a bit about where I was going today, and I told her I was heading back up here to spend the night before flying home tomorrow. I also told her that I was planning on making only one stop along the way, at Foynes to see the Flying Boat & Maritime museum. She hadn't heard of it and I teased her a bit that it was a place she should know and she told me that actually she's Irish but Slovenian which kind of surprised me because to my ear her English has an Irish accent.
I wish I could duplicate the route Google Maps took me along. When I looked it up just now all I got was: Head north toward N71 (59 m); Follow N22, N23 and N21 to Church St/R524 in Limerick 38 min (46.7 km); Follow R524 to Coast Rd/N69 24 min (24.4 km); Turn right onto Coast Rd/N69; Continue to follow N69; Destination will be on the right. The Ns are fairly decent roads, usually well paved and usually a single lane in each direction but sometimes I was on theoretically two lane roads connecting the major routes cross country. R524 was occasionally even narrower but still had two way traffic all along.
I also wish I could remember some of the towns I went through. There weren't all that many. One was Abbeyfeale which seemed quite nice. Its name comes from there once having been a monastic site near the River Feale somewhere nearby.
The route was pretty much inland from Killarney until it hit the Coast Road along the River Shannon and oddly enough was also inland along the Shannon until it got to Foynes, where it was right along the river, then the road goes far enough inland again that you can't see it for the rest of the way.
For only a period of about 6 years right up until 1941Foynes was the European end of the first trans-Atlantic flights until WW II stopped commercial flights and Shannon airport was developed as a military airport. Foynes was also the documented site for the creation of the Irish coffee one evening when a flight had arrived after passing through rough weather at sea.
The Flying Boat museum tells the story and has a replica of one of the planes used for the trans-Atlantic passenger trade. The maritime part of the museum is fairly small, being in what was the former control tower for the flights, but is very well done.
We went to the museum as part of the CIE tour eleven years ago, and were served an Irish coffee each although that seems to be something that only happens when tours are passing through since no one offered me one. That was OK, though, since I wasn't really ready for one that early in the day. Before I went into the museum I had a very good lunch of creamed vegetable soup, a toasted sandwich and a rhubarb tart at O'Regan's, the restaurant that is part of the building.
After leaving Foynes I just drove straight on up the Shannon until shortly before Limerick before passing through the toll tunnel where you have to pay a 1.90 Euro toll. Because I didn't remember that I'd be going through the tunnel and my Google Maps directions hadn't mentioned it I didn't have a coin or my wallet handy and had to just get out of the car to get the money out of a pants pocket and hand it to the clerk.
I got here about 3 PM. The hotel doesn't seem to have its own car park but is right on one of the airport's pay lots. After checking in and unloading the car and moving my stuff into the room I forgot to ask about getting out of the lot again. I tried leaving and putting my parking slip into the machine to pay on the way out but kept getting a message that it was faulty before I realized I was supposed to pay before leaving. I had a bit of trouble backing down the slightly winding entrance/exit to the lot before I could safely leave the car and go over to the pay machine. I kept inserting the slip into the machine and kept getting the same "faulty" message until a voice came over the intercom and told me that if I'm staying there in the hotel I need to pay at reception so I went back in and they validated the ticket for me.
I mentioned last night that the hotel's web site says they're "steps away" from Shannon airport but Google Maps says it's a 30 minute walk from here to there. The hotel is not much more than a football field or so away from the terminal through the airport's parking lot. When I checked in I told the two young women working reception how long of a walk Google Maps said the hotel is from the airport, and even showed it to them on my iPhone and they thought it was very odd. I suggested that they mention it to someone in management and they might want to see about getting the walking directions fixed on Google Maps.
From the front entrance where I had originally parked to unload the car I could see where Enterprise and the other rental companies have their vehicles in the lot. To actually get to where I could return the car I had to leave the lot and I went back to where I had seen the sign that says "Rental car return" and followed that around to where Enterprise is. That small office was closed but there was a mechanic or someone like that working there who told me I needed to go back around to Short Term parking which I did. I didn't see a way to get over to where the other Enterprise rentals were so I just parked as close to the entrance to the airport as I could. When I went in to return the car I learned I had actually left it pretty close to right where I was supposed to.
Crossing the parking lots back to here gave me a chance to see where is the best place to take my luggage across to the terminal; instead of lugging it up over the central divider near the parking pay station there is actually a flat space across.
This seems to be a pretty nice hotel with a gym and a bar and a restaurant as well as other small banquet/conference rooms, a very nice reading room, and a nice lobby as well. This is a very nice and quite spacious room as well, with a large desk and a king or at least queen size bed which will be a treat after the smaller double bed I slept on in my mini apartment in Killarney for the past week. I have only two minor complaintsmy room is on the ground floor, which isn't my complaint, but has no privacy curtains so I have to keep the heavier drapes closed which blocks off most of the heat from the radiator which is under the windows. I was able to get an extra comforter for the bed although the hotel's two spare room heaters were both already taken when I asked. The other complaint is that the phone booth size shower in this room's bathroom doesn't even have a small wall rack to put any toiletries on at all.
I had dinner here in the hotel's bar, which is a very pleasant place. I had a very good cup of creamed carrot soup, a beef & noodle stir fry, an excellent pint, and some very good ice cream for dessert.
And that's about it from Ireland for this trip. Before dinner I finished transferring all the photos from my camera's memory card to my laptop and backing them up to my portable USB hard drive for safekeeping as well.
It's now only 10:30 PM. I'm going to spend the rest of the evening until I think I can fall asleep by watching something streaming then go to bed. My flight leaves here at 12:45 PM tomorrow afternoon so I think I'll sleep in until 8:30 AM or so and have breakfast here in the hotel before heading on across the parking lot about 10:30 to check in.