Sunday, July 12, 2009

From Miltown Malbay to London - Sunday

Like clockwork, my cab arrived at 6 AM to take me to Ennis where I would catch the 7:05 bus to the Shannon Airport. I was very thankful to be able to split the 45 Euro cab ride with a young Hungarian woman also needing to arrive early at the bus station. We arrived in Ennis with time to spare. The bus station was closed, so we chatted on the porch to keep out of the cold wind and rain. At 7:05 AM there was no bus in sight. Around 7:08, a bus pulled into one of the empty loading lanes. I squinted to read the destination, having difficulty because of the rain. Before I could make out the words, I saw the bus back up and pull out of the loading lane and drive away! The bus stopped only long enough for that driver to shift into reverse gear. I was furious, but no amount of indignation was going to bring the bus back.

By this time a few cabs had arrived. Since there were no more airport buses until afternoon, I had no choice but to hire a second cab. I managed to get the fare down to about 30 Euros, I think. It turned out to be a really expensive morning, despite sharing the first cab. All together I spent about 55 Euros getting to the Shannon Airport. (For US readers, 1 Euro = about 1.40 US Dollars)

At the Shannon Airport I had my first Ryanair experience. Ryanair is an airline that makes short hops all over Europe, popular for business and weekend travel. They keep the fares low by charging extra fees for a long list of things. Their weight limit for checked baggage is 15 kilograms; 10 kilograms for the one carry-on bag you are allowed (your purse must be stuffed inside your one carry-on). Well, if you recall, I had purchased a heavy hardback flute reference book. I was also packing a jar of orange marmalade, a gift for my husband. My checked bag was about 6 kilograms overweight. At 15 Euros per kilogram, the overweight luggage fee would be the equivalent of another expensive cab ride. Not good! I stepped to the side and repacked, shoving as much in my carry-on as possible. During the frantic repacking, I got the bright idea to store things in the many pockets of my rain jacket. Brilliant, as nobody was going to weigh my coat. I was able to keep my carry-on bag under the limit (just barely) and reduce the weight of my checked bag to 16 kilograms. I paid the much reduced overweight fee, and with a self-satisfied chuckle I was on my way. It wasn't until I went through security that I realized that the marmalade was one of the items in my rain jacket. Airport security wouldn't let me keep it, so with regret I watched them pitch my Irish Whiskey Orange Marmalade into the trash bin.

My friend Maurene met me at Stansted Airport in London with her friend Tom and his cab. Tom drove us back to Maurene's apartment where we took a little nap before dinner.

Maurene and Tom

Refreshed, we were off to meet another of Maurene's many friends, Alec, at the club where he stays when he comes into London for a visit. The Oriental Club is in fact a very old and historic institution. Quoting the website, it is "... a Private Gentlemen's Club founded in 1824 by and for the benefit of members of or retired from the East India Company." Though its present quarters have been modernized, the aura is definitely stately and aristocratic with majestic decor, lovely antiques, and a variety of relics that recall the bygone days of Britain's Indian empire. Alec gave us a tour before we moved on to dinner.

Next stop: Rules, the oldest restaurant in London -- 200 years in operation. Rules specializes in traditional English food such as "classic game cookery, oysters, pies, and puddings." The dishes which feature game are said to be especially good, since the animals come from an estate owned by the family who owns the restaurant. Rules had rich mahogany interiors and lots of stained glass, but what impressed me most (aside from the food) was the waitstaff. In the cocktail lounge as well as in the dining room, they were pleasant and welcoming, knowledgeable about the food, and they knew how to appear only when we actually needed something rather than constantly interrupting us to ask if everything was ok. The food and drinks were delicious. Our conversation was interesting and entertaining. All in all, it was a delightful evening. Dinner at Rules provided a marvelous beginning for my London adventure.

Alec, Maurene and I with our Pimm's

© 2009, Linda Mason Hood
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