By Geanie Roake
Traveling from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to its miniature equivalent in Shannon Ireland is like stepping into another dimension. While the two airports are polar opposites – finely tuned chaos compared to small-town bustle – it’s the shift in scenery that takes your breath away. Chicago, a major metropolis of towering concrete, percolates with honking horns and harried people. Ireland on the other hand, embodies peace and lush green beauty.
Our ten-day bus tour of Southern Ireland began in the rural area of County Clare, where the countryside is dotted with traditional cottages, lush valleys, and ancient stone buildings. There are over 300 hundred castles, or the remains of such, in County Clare alone. It’s not unusual to see a country farmhouse sitting a stone’s throw from a crumbling 12th century cathedral, the farmer’s cows grazing peacefully among the
ruins. Continue reading
This is the second half of a post on touring Ireland. To Drive – should we rent a car and brave the roads? Or Be Driven – take a bus tour? Part 1 looked at the pros and cons of renting a car and driving. Today we talk about bus tours.
To drive or be driven, that was the question when my mother and I planned our trip to Ireland. Should we do the “typical tourist” thing and sign up for a bus tour? Or be independent, and strike out on our own in a rental car?
Unfortunately my impressions of bus tours were not very positive. I had visions of being shuffled from one tourist trap to another by a cranky guide with an incomprehensible accent.
Driving, on the other hand, held it’s own perils. People in Ireland drive on the “wrong” side, and their farm animals tend to materialize without warning in front of your car. Of course driving would give me the freedom to see exactly what I wanted, but that was only if I dared to pry my eyes from the road.
Since the entire outcome of my once-in-a-lifetime trip rested on this decision, and I was not an experienced traveler, I decided to consult others who were. Their opinions were many and varied. “If you’ve never been to Ireland before,” said a travel agent friend, “take the bus. It’s easier and more relaxing.” Upon hearing this, a co-worker recoiled in horror. “Don’t take a bus tour! It costs more and you’re stuck with strangers!” “But gas is $6.00 a gallon in Ireland,” said another. “You should go on a walking tour.”
After listening to the experts I decided I was more confused than ever. The time had come to call in the big guns, the heavy-duty problem solving artillery. This decision called for . . . a list of pros and cons!