Sunday, December 20, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

GAELIC GETAWAY, Chapter 17:  

Days 18-20:  Tralee to Dublin  
When we awoke to rain Friday morning, we decided to wait it out.  We had only about 65 miles to go for the day, and we were in no hurry.  By the time we left around 10, the sun was trying to peek out, but dark gray clouds lingered overhead.

The night before we had booked reservations for the next two weeks through January 2 in Belfast.  As we looked at the dates, we realized that we would need to do something about our rental car.  Though rental companies always offer an optional collision damage waiver (CDW) for an extra fee, most credit card companies provide this coverage if the rental is paid with their credit card.  In certain countries—namely Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, and New Zealand—many cards do not offer coverage, and the consumer is left to pay the rental company’s pricey CDW fee, which can increase the rental cost by 30% or more.

Because we are aware of this exemption (and readily understand the reason for it since we’ve snapped off wing mirrors on rental cars in both Ireland and Italy), we are studious about the coverage our Visa Sapphire card offers.  Yes, it does cover rentals in these countries but only for a rental lasting no more than 30 days.  Since we picked up our car on December 1, we will exceed the 30 days before leaving Ireland.  Though we are in our third car, we’re still on the original contract.

As Ken was driving us toward Limerick, I was searching for a good rate for our new rental.  Since we’d be dropping off the car in Dublin, we had to be careful to pick it up in the Republic of Ireland.  We couldn’t start the new rental in Northern Ireland (another country—the UK) or we’d be hit with a massive international drop-off fee in Dublin.

For some reason, the rates I was finding were triple (or more) the rate on our current rental.  Finally, we just decided this was a sign.  Maybe Ireland was becoming Tireland and it was time to move on to Scotland.

By the time we reached Limerick, I had cancelled all our reservations beyond there.  The same bookings we had spent two and a half hours planning the night before.  Most of these cancellations required a phone call, and for once our cell signal was strong the entire trip.  Another sign.

We arrived at the Absolute Hotel in Limerick in time for lunch at the Absolute Bar and Grill.  The food was absolutely delicious, and by the time we were finished, our room was ready.  With the assistance of the cordial Katie at the front desk, we upgraded for a bargain price to a two-room suite so we would have a bathtub in addition to the walk-in shower.  She assigned us to a corner suite on the top floor with a little balcony overlooking the River Shannon.  Very spacious and clean, it was missing only a refrigerator, but the air temp was cool enough to store our refrigerated goods on the balcony.

Absolute Bar and Grill
Once we were settled in the room, we began making reservations for Scotland—flying to Edinburgh on December 21, as originally planned, and spending five nights in an apartment in Old Town.  After a salad in our room, we called it a night.

King John's Castle
On Saturday we relaxed a bit, worked on the blog, reorganized our plans, and took a walk on King's Island in the heart of Limerick.  The island sits in the River Shannon and takes its name from King John's Castle, built on the island by the English in the year 1200.  It remains one of the best preserved Norman fortifications in Europe.

Curraghgower Singers
Usually open to the general public, the castle was hosting a medieval Christmas festival.  Admission was only for ticket holders of that event.  As part of the day's festival performances, the Curraghgower Singers were dressed in period costume and performing traditional Christmas carols in front of the castle.  Formed in 2011, the Singers combined two local choirs to perform secular and religious music both locally and abroad.

St. Mary's Cathedral
Near the castle we saw St. Mary's Cathedral, which has stood in the center of the city for nine centuries. Commissioned by Domhnall Mor O'Brien around 1168, it is located on the site of a one-time Viking Parliament and later a royal palace of the Kings of Munster.

Canada Geese--they're everywhere!
On the riverfront, we came across yet another example of proof that you cannot escape the pests that Canada Geese have become no matter where you go.  We have seen them before in the Netherlands and in France.  And today, in Ireland.  Fortunately this time they were in the form of an 8-foot sculpture called "Wild Geese" created by father and son sculptors from Virginia, David and William Turner.  In Irish history, the term Wild Geese refers to Irish soldiers who served in the armies of other European countries after being exiled from Ireland, often for their support of the Irish independence movement.  Today Irish people living in various countries sometimes form a local Wild Geese Society to promote social and cultural connections with fellow Irish ex-pats.

Plans complete, all we needed to do on Sunday was drive most of the way across the country to reach Dublin.  Fortunately it was only 120 miles, all of it on the M7, the longest motorway in Ireland.  Exits, or junctions as they are called here, are numbered sequentially rather than by mileage as on US interstates.  A little past halfway we stopped at Junction 14 Mayfield, a rest area and so much more.  Independently owned, the service area aims to give motorists a place to "relax, recharge, and refuel."  To accomplish those goals, the complex includes a grocery convenience store, a coffee shop, several fast food outlets, a restaurant, and restroom areas all under one roof.  Outside there is a petrol station.  Though it was quite busy, we found the concept very appealing.  

Junction 14 Mayfield near Kildare, Ireland
By the time we reached the Doubletree Hotel in Dublin, we were very glad we were traveling through the city center on Sunday.  Traffic was bumper to bumper, and like our first day here, it took almost an hour to drive through commercial areas.

As we prepare to fly to Edinburgh tomorrow morning, we marveled at the weather on our last full day in Ireland.  As often as we have seen rain and wind and storm clouds in the past 20 days, today, when we had no sightseeing plans, the sun was beaming overhead in a blue sky.  Go figure.

Sunny skies over the M7
Chapter Stats:  (3 days)
  • Started in Tralee, ended in Dublin
  • Mileage - 198 mi.   (Trip total:  6,142)
  • Weather - 43° to 59°, cloudy, windy, rainy 
Thomond Bridge near the castle, built in 1840
Former toll house for the Thomond Bridge, now available as a vacation rental 
The imposing King John's Castle
Sun setting in Limerick