How early do I need to arrive at the airport before my trip?

We hear this question a lot at Witte. The standard recommendation is two hours before for domestic and three hours for international. Keep in mind that this is the standard amount of time. In some cases, it needs to be adjusted. This does not mean, leave home two hours before. You should be at the counter, ready to checkin for your flight. The amount of time it will take varies a great deal. Airport size, time of flight, whether you are being dropped off or need to park, and other conditions can affect the amount of time you will need.

I recently stayed at a hotel, on the grounds of the Charles de Gaulle Airport, the night before my flight home. I had an early morning flight. I was traveling alone. I allowed three hours before my flight to be at the airport. This airport is so large and the distances were so great between check-in, security, and my gate that I barely made it to the gate before boarding. I was really hurrying, too. Always error on the side of more time. You can nap, read, or just people-watch at the airport. I recommend knitting. I also recommend looking at a map of the airport terminal ahead of time, if you are not familiar with it. This information is on most airport websites.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport has made many upgrades. One of the biggest is that now, all the security funnels through one area. It is not possible to know how many flights are leaving in the same timeframe as yours, so don’t plan on being able to just whisk through the line. There may not be an issue with you or your group, but with a traveler ahead of you. Being patient can go a long way.

Getting to the gate too late can be very frustrating. Gates get crowded, so there may be no place to sit. Travel is fun. Travel is rewarding. You want to have the whole experience be as pleasant as possible. You cannot control every part of a situation, so take control of those you can. Get to the airport early.

Using your travel professional to book your flights will help as well. She can inform you what gate or terminal you need to be at – and also make sure that you have enough time between connecting flights.

European Travel

A group of five is traveling to Europe. I am a part of this group. I have let two of the travelers do almost all the planning. This will be a first for me. I am usually the one who does the planning. It should be a new experience.

Speaking of new experiences our group will be using the Rail Europe train system for transport between the larger cities. We need to travel from Amsterdam to Brussels, then from Brussels to Paris. Witte Travel & Tours can arrange your Rail Europe travel before you leave the states. You can get your rail passes and your reserved seats that are used on the high-speed trains. Just be sure to remember to take the tickets with you! Looking forward to traveling by train. My husband and I used the rail system in Germany. It was quite an efficient way to travel. It wasn’t as hard to figure out as I thought it might be.

With less one week to go until we leave, it is time to start the lists and piles of items I need to pack. Something to do on the train might be nice, or maybe I’ll just look out the window.

 

 

Dublin by day!

We didn’t have to get up super early today. That was a relief. It is still cold and wet outside today. We woke to a light dusting of snow on the cars outside the window. Glad we are not driving. The weather said schools in the UK were closed due to snow. They received 3″!

Nicola from Eibus was to meet us at 9:30 in the lobby for coffee. We had about a 1.5 hour meeting with her. She’s a super nice lady. We discussed some of our groups that have traveled to Ireland and our experience with the day tour operators in Galway. She was kind enough to offer us a ride into Dublin and drop us at the Guinness Storehouse. This was much appreciated after our walk to the red line stop yesterday.

We arrived at the Guinness Storehouse having already purchased tickets online before leaving. (€18.00 per person)

Kilkenny to Dublin – the home stretch

Started the morning early. The room was very nice and breakfast was great. We were on the road by 9 a.m. As I said yesterday, we didn’t get to spend a lot of time here. The drive from Kilkenny to Dublin today took through the Wicklow Mountains. The mountains were very pretty. Snow was visible on the peaks. We decided to get off the motorway and drive through the countryside. At a corner we stopped to take photos of some sheep. I crossed the road and instead of running away (like the Connemara sheep), they all ran toward me! Brenda found this very funny. We both laughed and laughed. The sheep were bleating, the cows mooing, and the dog was barking. Quite a lot of noise. I was sure the farmer was going to come out to see what was going on. Before too long into the drive we stopped for tea and to use the facilities. This stop was made in Baltinglass. We wanted to stop here as there was an abbey listed on the map. We stopped in at Horans for a cup of tea. It’s quite a cute little bar. The barmaid, Kathleen, was super friendly. She told us what to see in the Wicklow Mountains. She said to be sure to see the Upper Lake at Glendalough, that the locals still find it wonderful. We told her we wanted to see the abbey. She said it wasn’t much. We told her that such sights were not available in the U.S. and we all agreed it was a case of it being around all the time, thus losing it charm. When we were ready to leave we asked what we owed and she said nothing. It was to be considered Irish hospitality. We did stop in Glendalough, but the Upper Lake required an admission and we were getting short on time. It will have to wait for another trip.

We completed our trip into Dublin using the motorway, what we call expressways. These are in very good condition as they are fairly new. The M50 is a bypass around the city of Dublin. Wikepedia lists it as the busiest motorway in Ireland. I can believe that. Before dropping off the rental car we went to see Drimnagh Castle. This is just about 5km from our hotel. The tour was fun and informative. Charlie the guide was great. He is here from Scotland. In order to go into the castle you are required to take a guided tour. This was very affordable 4.50 per person for adults. Drimnagh is a Norman Castle in the heart of South Dublin and Ireland’s only remaining moated castle according to their website. The urban area just grew up around it.

We got to the Red Cow Moran about 2:00 p.m. Just a little behind our time. The car rental company couldn’t pick up the car, so we drove it to their offices. They did give us a lift back to the hotel though. No more driving for us now until we get to Michigan.

The hotel is beautiful, and quite large. We went into the bar for a late lunch and a pint. Brenda found out she could get a glass of Guinness instead of a pint. Her new nickname is half-pint! I again chose the seafood chowder. That seems to be my go to meal for lunches. It was quite good. We sat and relaxed ab bit. After lunch we headed to the room to regroup. Tonight we went into Dublin city for our Irish House Party dinner and a show reservation. The routing to get there was a bit of a challenge. We walked the ten minutes (.5 miles) to the Red Cow Luas stop. We purchased a day ticket (€6.80) thinking that would bring us back as well. The ride on the train was fun. We met a older gentleman, whose name is Tom, and he told us about buildings and areas as we past them. He said that if you are over 65 you can ride the public transportation for free. What a great idea. We got off at our stop (Jervis) and walked 20 minutes (.9 miles) to the St. Stephen’s Green Luas stop. From this train stop we walked 20 minutes (1 mile) to our destination. As I told Brenda after we had done this, there is always a “death march” on any trip I plan.

The dinner was very good. Far too much food was served. This is a very touristic thing to do. All of our dinner companions seemed to be visitors like us. There was a large, and loud, group of Belgians. After dinner we were sent downstairs to the performance area. There were four musicians who entered the stage. Declan Quinn was the leader. He sang and played penny whistle and the flute. His brother Eugene sang and played acoustic guitar.  Fergal Chambers played the uilleann pipes. There was a young lady who played the bodhran, sang and danced. I cannot for the life of me remember her name! I think it might be Grainne. We learned that there are three instruments native to Ireland. The bodhran, uilleann pipes and the Irish harp. Overall a very good night of food and music.

After a very long day we decided to take a taxi back to the hotel. This was much easier on us than the walk/public transit that it took to get here. The cost was €20 well spent. We crashed for the night. Tomorrow is our last full day in Ireland.

Oíche mhaith

 

Killarney to Kilkenny

We had missed going to the Dingle Peninsular yesterday we thought we’d try to see part of it today. The weather is still not the best. It is typical Irish weather from what we hear. We drove northwest from Killarney toward Tralee. It was decided in advance that we would drive until 10:30 and then turn around. We managed to get to a beach area on the north side of the peninsular. The wind was the biggest challenge when being outside. The sun came out briefly to give up a rainbow.
We turned back in the direction of Cork and Blarney Castle. The visitor count was light at the castle. We made sure to have our umbrellas with us. We paid our entry of €13 and went onto the grounds. There is construction going on currently. Looks like they are upgrading some visitor amenities. The walk to the castle was very cold and windy. (Thanks Storm Jake!) The castle was enclosed and the wind wasn’t so bad during the climb up. Brenda got a little nervous about the climb, but she made it to the top. Once there though, she didn’t want to kiss the Blarney Stone. I assured her that I wasn’t going to either, as I more than have the “gift of gab.” We climbed back down the spiral stairs and once at the bottom the sky opened up. It rained quite hard. We were glad that it hadn’t rained like that up on the ramparts of the castle. If the weather had been better we might have walked the gardens. Instead, we purchased a cup of tea to takeaway and started the drive to Cashel.
The Rock of Cashel is amazing. We were both very glad we went there. It took us a few times around town to find the parking lot. The walk up to the entrance isn’t too long. At the ticket counter we were told that there would not be a charge. For some reason it was complimentary for the day. The usual cost if 4.50 euro per person. We did have to pay for parking, but at €4.50 it was a bargain. The Cormac Chapel is undergoing major restoration. When it is completed it will be absolutely fantastic. That portion of the site dates from the 12th century. It is difficult to fathom that these building are almost 1,000 years old.
We continued on to Kilkenny for the night. The Hotel Kilkenny is quite nice. After getting settled in we walked into the town center for dinner. On our way we stopped at a sweet shop named Kitty’s Cabin and bought some candy. The shop owner was very helpful. We choose Langton House Hotel for dinner, based on Rick Steve’s book. It was nice, but more expensive than we had been paying. Busy place with lots of locals. Brenda had a lamb stew that she really enjoyed. I went with the fish and chips. We wanted to hear more music, so we walked up toward the north side of the river. Just across was Matt the Millers. This was also listed in Rick Steve’s book. A group called Wallop the Cat was suppose to be playing. We arrived to find a single guitar player singing. He was good though and kept the music up. Not really traditional Irish music, but fun. When he took his break we had a chance to talk to him. His name is John Kavanagh. He is part of Wallop the Cat. His partner was very sick so couldn’t be there. John said he loves to visit the states and has been to 36 of them. Much more than either Brenda or myself. The bar staff was the most friendly of all the places we have been to so far.
Took a taxi back to the hotel as it was too cold and windy. The driver said that we couldn’t stop after only three pints, that it was against the law. He was yet another of the friendly people we have met.
We would like to plan the driving days better though so we can spend more time in the town. We got to see the Kilkenny Castle by night, but not during the day. Next time, as there is lots more to see and do in Kilkenny than we had time for.

Galway to Killarney via Cliff of Moher

Today started out not so great. We had asked for a 7:00 wake up call, but it didn’t happen. That put us two hours behind schedule. We got up and going and left as soon as we could. The breakfast room was much busier and noisier at 9:45 that at 8:00.

we got on the road with Brenda driving. We didn’t drive at all yesterday so it took a little adjusting. No problems though. We headed south to the Cliffs of Moher. We stopped at Dunguaire Castle for a photo shot. It was very brisk outside and we didn’t stop long.
Continuing on to the cliffs, we arrived about two hours later than originally planned. (See notation above) and paid our entry fee. It was incredibly windy there! So much so that they closed O’Brien’s Tower for viewing. It was so windy that you could lean forward into the wind and not fall over. It was still quite foggy so the views were not as spectacular as they could have been. It was more than made up for in the excitement generated by the wind and the spray. Yes, spray. The wind was so strong that the surf was up over the cliff walls to where we were. One visitor we saw said it was like an upside saltwater waterfall. Accurate description. We saw all we could there, stopped in the gift shop and then grabbed a cup of tea to take away. We had places to be.

We drove south and decided to skip the auto ferry crossing of the Shannon and go around Limerick instead. This resulted in us driving under the Shannon River. That was fun. The toll was 1.90 euro.
We were so behind our time that we headed straight to the Randles Hotel for our overnight. What a beautiful hotel. It is so quaint. There are original oil paintings all over the place. Fireplaces all over the place. It reminds me of a very upscale Faulty Towers. After checking into our room I had just enough time to meet Michelle’s request for interior photos of St. Mary’s Church of Ireland. This is a very cute little church. I drove up there by myself to get it done before they closed. (Funny to think of a church closing)
Brenda and I went down to the hotel bar for a pint and sat by one of the fireplaces. We relaxed and chatted. Afterward we walked into the city center. I showed her Quills Woolen Shop and since it was open we went in. We each made some purchases. The ladies on staff recommended The Poterhouse for our dinner. It was a great suggestion. There was a single guitar player singing Irish tunes. The food was very good. Brenda greatly enjoyed her Irish Lamb Stew and my Fish and Chips with a side of mushy peas was just the thing to go with a pint of Guinness.
We then wandered over to Sheehan’s Pub for a pint and to hear some more local music. There was a group of five musicians playing. The atmosphere was grand. We shared a table with some locals, and then we shared that same table with a nice young couple from Boston. Tom and Rebecca were here in Killarney with friends, one of whom was born in Dublin. The friends were back at the hotel with the wee ones.
We are now back at the hotel for the night. Up bright and early for breakfast at 8:00 and then to try and see part of the Dingle Peninsular that we missed today.
Three days down, three to go.

Connemara and more – by bus

Today we woke to the sound of the crashing surf. It was wonderful. Again, I was too warm with the heavy comforter. Brenda was very comfortable and said she slept great. She loves the pillows! We got up to our wake up call at 7:00 a.m. to be ready for our pickup at 8:40 a.m. for our scheduled tour.
Breakfast was wonderful. The staff very pleasant. The space is roomy and open. After breakfast we headed up to the room to pack up for our day trip. The tour was booked on Viator.com and the confirmation said it was with Spirit of Ireland Tours. I had not received any reconfirmation from the local operator as indicated by the Viator documents, so I called last night before bed. It seems they never received our request? I forwarded the email with the confirmation and Damien assured me he would work it out. John picked us up right on time and we headed to the drop off location. Arriving there we discovered that they tour wasn’t going. They offered us a free Cliffs of Moher tour for today and then we could go to Connemara tomorrow. That didn’t work with our itinerary, so he moved us to Lally Tours. John dropped us at that location and gave us cash to pay for the tickets. Well…. that tour didn’t go either. We had woke to rain as well as the ocean sounds, and it continued to rain all day. Connemara in the rain is not a popular tour. Lally ended up passing up to Galway Tour Company. This was a large 40-passenger bus, with only 14 people on it. Paul Norton was our driver. (Director is his title on his card) He was a wonderful driver/guide. His commentary was informative, funny, though provoking and more. This tour didn’t go exactly where the other one was, but we were very happy with it.
We went to Ross Errily Abbey, Cong Village, Lough Nafooey, Leenane/Killary Harbour, Kylemore Abbey and Inagh Valley. Brenda said is was the “best day ever” even though it rained. Paul asked the small group if anyone was in a hurry or had a schedule to maintain. Since no one did, he extended parts of the tour. We arrived back at our hotel. (Yes, he dropped us off even though we didn’t book with them originally!) about 6:15 p.m. It’s been a long day, and isn’t over yet.
We are off to find dinner, more music and a pint in town shortly. Pictures to follow.

Slán go fóill

The first full day in Ireland.

It actually started out in Germany. We landed in Frankfurt at 6:20 a.m. in Terminal A/Z. It was a very long walk to Terminal B. We were both glad for the walk though after sitting for so long. We got to the gate and found some benches nearby. I think we both took a bit of a nap there while waiting. Brenda exchanged some USD for Euro at a rate of $1 to 1.29. This ended up being high due to the commission, but she was glad to have some Euro.

The flight to Dublin was full. We had exit row seats with lots of leg room. The flight attendant’s jump seat was in our row. Stephanie was very nice. Even though this was a short flight they served drinks and sandwiches. We arrived in Dublin just about on time. The line for immigration was very long for the non-EU passengers, but went quickly. There was not proper customs procedure to speak of after they stamped out passports. The luggage arrived quickly and we found the rental car desk. That process went very quickly as well. The agent for Enterprise was pleasant and easy to work with.

The car is small, which is good! We got out of the lot and onto the highway system right away. After a little directional issue we got on the correct road and headed to Galway. The highway system is very well marked, it was more of a user error. We made a stop about halfway across at Clonmacnoise. This ancient Christian site is well worth the stop. The short movie that is included in the cost of 7 Euro to enter is worth the time. It was Brenda’s turn to drive when we left Clonmacnoise. The narrow country roads were thankful fairly empty on Sunday. She got the hang of the left side driving quickly. We returned to the highway and continued on to Galway. I made a misdirection and sent up through the city proper. That was an experience! Traffic was heavy, but we made it through. There was a circus tent set up in the Salthill area. By the time we returned to town for dinner at night, the tent was down. The Salthill Hotel is beautiful. We have an ocean view! I can see why this hotel is a great one for our groups. There is plenty of room in the restaurant for a large group to have breakfast and the lobby area is nice and large.

We took a taxi into Galway city (10 euro) and got some great recommendations from the driver. We walked High St., which is pedestrian only, have saw so many great places to eat, drink and shop. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we had dinner at. We each had the Guiness and beef stew. It was very good. Just prior to dinner we had went into Taaffe’s as they listed food on their sign. Unfortunately the kitchen is not open on Sunday. There was some music there so we stayed for a pint and listened to the music for a while. I danced with a gentleman after he saw us tapping our feet to the music. That was interesting, to saw the least. After we had dinner, we went to Tig Coili for music and a pint. We arrived just as the music was about to start. We got our pints at the bar and found stools to sit on. Right near us was a young couple that looked about to leave. We planned to take their place, but they decided to stay. We asked them if they minded if we moved our stools closer to the music. Joe and Allison, here from Philadelphia, were very pleasant to talk to. And guess who we should run into but Eugene, the dancing man from Taaffe’s. After all this we hailed a taxi back to the hotel and went to bed. The end of a very long but fun-filled day.

Ireland Here We Come!

Sunday, February 27 we were up and heading to Detroit for the flights to Dublin. The drive was great and getting let out right at the departure terminal was a real plus. Big thanks to the husbands for taking us to the airport!
Check-in at the Lufthansa counter was quick and efficient, as was the security line. We arrived at the airport just shy of the three hours before and that was plenty of time in this case. The flight departed about 30 minutes late. This caused us no concern as we had a long layover in Frankfurt. The plane was very clean. Brenda and I were not assigned seats together, but very close. We worked with the cabin crew and I was able to move to sit by her. The food was good and the cabin crew very friendly and helpful. The display screen closest to Brenda didn’t work and the crew was not able to fix it. We were sitting in a three seat row directly behind a four seat row, so there was an extra screen for her to see. She was very excited about the whole trip.
Sunday ended with us in-flight to Germany.