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Ireland: Day 1

We arrived at Shannon International Airport via Aer Lingus shortly before 6:00 AM, Ireland time (1:00 AM Philadelphia time). It was a five hour flight from Boston to Shannon, about 80 minutes from Philadelphia to Boston, take-off delayed by about 90 minutes, so we were lucky to make our flight out of Boston.

We rented a van that resembled a wheeled breadbox, continually reminded my father to stay left, and were off.

First destination, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. A tourist trap, to be sure, but a castle is a castle, and Bunratty Castle is about 600 years old. It had most of the stuff you’d expect a 15th century Irish castle to have, including lots of tight, steep spiral staircases, ornately carved furniture, and a really, really cool dungeon.

The deceivingly enormous folk park had more of a 19th century slant, “a living reconstruction of the homes and environment of Ireland of over a century ago.” So most of the building interiors reaked of kerosene and smoldering peat, which was oddly pleasant.

It would have been easy to spend an entire day wandering around in the folk park, but by 11:30 the jet lag demanded attention and our first night’s B&B was ready for us.

A couple hours’ nap helped a little, and then it was back to Bunratty Castle for the medieval banquet at 5:30. Despite some flashbacks from my brief and misguided stint with the Kutztown University Renaissance Club, the night was relatively enjoyable, though the entertainers’ vacant smiles kinda gave me the creeps. We met a nice pregnant couple from Detroit. The food was good; utensils were prohibited. At some point during the banquet, I was suddenly and inexplicably stricken with a profound admiration for the genius behind the manufacturer name Fruit of the Loom.

The evening was capped with a visit to Durty Nelly’s, supposedly the oldest pub in Ireland. Pints all around: Guinness for my dad, Bulmer’s hard cider for me, Harp for my sister, and water for my mom. Some sixth-grade kid who had just made his confirmation offered to purchase my sister’s pack of Trident. “They sell ’em with so many pieces in America.” She gave it to him, no charge. My mother verified to his mother that it was sugar-free.

Stuck in my head: Bad Religion – “Kerosene”