One of the perks of my job is that I can occasionally get funding to attend international conferences. Since I love to travel, this is a great way for me to get out a bit and see the world without spending tons of my own money while also making international connections that will advance my career (win-win!). One of these opportunities arose when I heard about a conference focused on the European Social Survey that was taking place in Limerick, Ireland. One of the suggested topics was religion, which was perfect for me. I submitted an abstract for the conference, found out it was accepted, then asked my university for some money to cover my travel. My Dean approved funds to cover my flight, which was good enough for me.
The way my schedule worked out, I was able to fly into Ireland about four days before the conference started, giving me a few days to experience Ireland before the conference.
I left Tampa on May 23rd, had a layover at JFK in New York, then flew into Shannon, Ireland. Unfortunately, my overnight flight wasn’t all that pleasant as the guy sitting next to me must have weighed 300 pounds. He barely fit into his seat, meaning he took up a decent portion of mine as well. Plus, he was basically asleep when I got on the plane and slept the entire flight to Ireland. That would not have been a problem except he snored and kept leaning on my shoulder. That made getting much sleep difficult. I managed to get about 3 hours is all, but that was enough to get me through most of the first day in Ireland.
I opted to rent a car in Ireland so I could traverse the country at my leisure and visit some more obscure locations. Everything seemed to be going fine when I stopped to pick up the car until I learned the price of the insurance. When I reserved the car, I was quoted €90 for an entire week. But, being in Ireland, I wanted insurance for the car. Turns out, insurance was €53 a day! That meant my rental car suddenly became the most expensive part of the trip. The only other option was not getting insurance, but I’d rather not have to deal with that. So, I approved the €600+ transaction on my credit card and got underway.
Driving in Ireland also meant that I had to drive on the “wrong” side of the road on the “wrong” side of the car again. I did that before in Scotland and only ended up driving against traffic once. I was fairly confident I’d be fine. But I was also driving a stick this time, which added to the confusion. Even so, on my way to pick up the rental car, the bus driver gave us some good advice. He said, “Every time you get in your car, remember that you need to keep the white line separating you from the other traffic just to your right. If you remind yourself of that every time you get in the car, you should be fine.” I found that rather helpful.
The next hiccup was my GPS. I didn’t rent one (at the rental car rate, it was probably €800 per day) because I had just bought a new phone that works internationally, the LG G3 on Sprint (though I use ting.com for my service, which is awesome). I planned ahead to simply stop by a Vodafone store in Shannon, get a SIM card for my phone and pay for that and a week’s worth of data and then get going with my phone guiding me around the country. Everything seemed to be going according to plan as I drove straight to the shopping center where the Vodafone store was. But… It was Sunday. And, in Shannon, that meant the Vodafone store was closed. No SIM card. I still needed to drive across Ireland to Dublin to make it to my room that night. I found a wi-fi network that was open, logged in with my phone, and plotted a course using Google Maps. Luckily, Google Maps caches the map and directions and then uses GPS to navigate, so I was able to get started on my drive across Ireland. However, between Shannon and Limerick there was a toll and I hadn’t gotten any Euros yet. I had to exit and find an ATM. I happened upon a Tesco (basically the European Wal-Mart equivalent) and remembered that they have cellular service. I stopped in, got some Euros, then tried to get a SIM card working in my phone. I was able to make calls, but no data, and the Tesco techs I called were worthless. Turns out, because my phone is a Sprint phone that doesn’t typically use GSM, there were some additional settings (APNs) that needed to be adjusted. I ended up wasting about €10 trying to get the Tesco SIM to work and finally gave up: I needed to get to Dublin before nightfall. I cached the route on my phone again and left.
With Euros in hand, I had no problem with the tolls and Google Maps got me right to the car park where I was going to leave my car for the night. I was staying in Temple Bar, the Dublin equivalent of New Orleans’ French Quarter – lots of pubs, lots of drinking, lots of music, and lots of drunk people. I was really just hoping for a taste of Dublin and some Irish music. Even so, there are a number of really cool things to see in the area. Before I called my airBNB host, I walked around Temple Bar and found a couple of open wifi networks. I used one to find a Vodafone store, which happened to be open and had techs who were able to figure out how to get my LG G3 to work on their network. Hooray! I now had mobile data coverage for most of Ireland.
I then stopped by Trinity College Dublin to look around:
I then called my host and arranged to go by the room I would be staying in that night, which was right on the River Liffey. My host, Franck, was out of town, but he had a friend let me in and show me the place. I ended up having the whole apartment to myself. And this was the awesome view out my window:
I got settled, then headed out for dinner and to try to find some Irish music. On the way to a nearby pub, I stopped by the Famine Memorial.
I got a recommendation for a pub with traditional Irish music from a friend who is Irish: O’Donoghues. The pub was very small, which meant I couldn’t really see the band that was playing, but the music was good. I chatted with a very inebriated local for a bit who was hitting on every woman who came within his orbit while I pretended to enjoy a not very good sandwich (no pint to accompany it, alas, since I don’t like beer). After about 45 minutes of nice Irish music, I realized I was getting very tired. I walked through St. Stephen’s Green – a very nice park – then headed back to the apartment where I crashed pretty quickly.