Saturday, June 26, 2010
Shannon and beyond
During the bus ride to Shannon, we stopped at a truck stop to use the rest rooms and get refreshments. My camera was set on some weird setting and I enlisted the help of others to see if I could fix it and no one could figure it out (pictures were coming out in a grid of 16 pictures per frame instead of one). I gave up and decided to figure it out later.
When we finally got to Limerick, another passenger Dee and I decided to go for fish and chips (my first, and it was good!) while we waited on the bus to Shannon. Then we took the first bus to the Shannon airport because it left an hour earlier than the one that went to the city of Shannon. Since The Oak Wood Arms Hotel was only about 2.5 miles from the airport, I thought perhaps that was a good idea. We also talked about sharing a taxi, but then her hotel was right there at the airport and she walked. Oh, well. At least I got to Shannon while it was still early enough to enjoy a little bit. And the hotel was so beautiful! Everything is brick, stained glass, thick carpet, wrought iron, etc. It's just stuffed with charm.
I was so tired of riding buses that I decided to go for a walk, which you can do because it stays light until around 10PM around here. So, I walked down to the turnabout and took pictures of the odd statue there of what appears to be some seed pods. There is no plaque explaining it and the locals don't even know what it is exactly. Then I saw a sign that read "Pelican Crossing." I had to take a picture, though I did not see any pelicans. I'm guessing they might have a problem with that or they wouldn't have made the sign.
Then I came back to the hotel and decided to go into the bar for a bit of dessert and a cider. The bar was gorgeous and I ordered a cheesecake and cider, cider being a cross between apple cider and beer. Both were excellent!
Then I went to my room and took a nice warm bath. The hotel prides itself on handicapped accessibility, yet the handles in the bathrub weren't levers, they were round and hard to manipulate. I am not a person with a disability, but I even had a problem with it. Anyway, I was relaxed enough at that point to crawl in the comfy bed and have a good night's sleep. I set a wake-up call for 6:30 since Kaytee Stephens was flying in early the next morning and I promised to meet her at the Shannon airport.
I got up as promised (hating the alarm!!), showered and went in the dining room for the continental breakfast. In the morning, my fight with the shower handles was so bad that when the epic battle was over, there was water all over the floor. If I wasn't wet with nothing on but a towel, I would have demanded another room. It was downright ridiculous.
When I went to the restaurant for breakfast, everything was in those covered heated serving dishes. Note: never eat sunny side up eggs from one of those things! They're like rubber. The rest of the breakfast was nice, though.
I went to check out and asked about a cab in 15 minutes. The concierge made the call and I scurried to the room to pack. I got out of there just in time and the taxi was waiting. We went over to the Shannon airport and he talked about the water to the left of us being tidal and the tide was way out. He also mentioned something about all the trees in Ireland being cut down and there just weren't any ancient trees anymore.
I walked into the airport and was going to have Kaytee paged, but I saw her sitting there knitting. I said, the bus to Galway leaves in 29 minutes, let's go! I didn't want to wait on the others. She did. I had learned in the past 2 days that you can get just about anywhere in Ireland simply by asking someone. Anyway, we waited. We shouldn't have because had we left earlier, the bus would not have been so hot (they don't have air conditioned buses because they would only use it one or twice a year) and we would have checked in before everyone else and avoided a bottleneck.
But, anyway, we got to Galway and took a cab over to the Gort Na Coroibe apartments and got all signed in and everything. The apartments have a downstairs living room and kitchen combo and a half bath. One story up, there is a single room, a double room and a bathroom. Another floor up, there's two single rooms. Since our program was so light on participation, we only had Hannah on the top floor and me on the floor below.
Now, get this. I was having trouble communicating with the maintenance staff about the problems in our apartment. We refer to the ground floor usually as the 1st floor. Then one story up would be the 2nd floor or 2nd story, and so on. To them, the ground floor is the bottom, then one story up is the FIRST floor! yikes!
So we settled into our rooms and went to the grocery store. I think I mentioned before that the produce isn't always up to American standards, especially the lettuce. Every head I looked at was brown, except one, so I bought it. Days later I find out a big secret. If you want nice lettuce, go to the farmer's market! Everything looks wonderful there.
Anyway, we get together and walk over to the National University of Ireland at Galway (NUIG) to register. It's a good long walk, I think maybe a mile and a half maybe? I'm a bad judge of distance. Let's just say it's a long walk by our standards. The Irish seem to do a lot of walking, so to them it's no big deal. It's been a little hard on some of us, especially if we're used to just hopping in our cars or taking a bus to get where we need to be.
Then we get a tour of the campus, which is just beautiful. There is so much greenery that you don't have the same line of sight from one end of campus to the other like you do at the University of Arkansas. So, we had a walking tour, but it was hard to get our bearings. At 3:30 we were introduced to the faculty, Moya Cannon, and for those who didn't go to the UA, they were introduced to Skip Hays from our English Department.
Most of us expressed a desire to take advantage of the poetry workshop class and the fiction workshop class (which go on at the same time) so they decided to stagger them since there is such a small class (only 9). Afterwards we get signed onto the NUIG system.
Then we walked all the way back to the apartments. Some of the group went out, but some of us settled in and ate from what we bought at the store. We were mostly exhausted. It had been a really long day with bus travel and a lot of walking. Most all of us had jet lag to some degree.
The next day, we started classes.