KLM flight 662 landed in Amsterdam about 1:00 pm Dutch time. The airport looked and felt like it had been built in the sixties: pretty stark, with no aesthetically pleasing elements that I could ascertain. I knew I was definitely in modern Europe when, within a short time span, I heard announcements for flights to Bucharest, Warsaw, Zagreb, and Kiev.
I found myself paying pretty close attention to the people boarding my Air Lingus flight to Dublin—not because of security concerns, but because I realized that I was going to be living among and working with these people, not just visiting their country as a tourist. Even though I would be there for only a short time, the distinction seemed an important one to me. The most striking thing I noticed about my traveling companions was that they looked Irish. It wasn’t their hair color or height. It wasn’t their accent, because I really couldn’t hear many people talking. But though indefinable, there was something definitely Irish-looking about them—most of them, anyway.
The most striking thing I noticed about the Air Lingus flight attendants was that they were very animated, very energetic, and very busy—but not very worried about being efficient. They were unusually attentive to each individual’s needs, often interrupting the general serving process to fulfil a specific request, even if it meant walking back to the galley yet again and slowing down service for everyone else on the flight.
It was close to 3:00 pm when we landed in Dublin, which is an hour behind Amsterdam. I had been worried about getting through immigration without a visa, stating that I was traveling for business, but when I responded to the immigration officer’s question that I would be in country for six weeks, and then answered “both” to his question about whether I was coming for business or leisure, he just stamped my passport and let me through. That was it. The customs agent just waved me through without asking a single question. The only easier border crossing I have ever experienced was getting into Canada before they started requiring a passport.
The first order of business was to get an Irish SIM card for the iPhone I was able to borrow from Michael Saylor, a colleague at work. A single store at the Dublin airport offered every option from the four or five Irish wireless companies, so when I explained my specific needs to the clerk (mostly calls within Ireland and data for cell phone), he knew exactly which service plan I needed and then set it up for me. I was out of there in ten minutes, having spent only €25!
Next on the list of things to do was to get a bus ticket to Dublin. I had just missed one bus—which was okay because I needed something to eat anyway. So I bought a ticket for a bus that left an hour later and stopped at a bakery. Even after the bland, institutional breakfast that had been served on the KLM flight, nothing looked very tempting because I was feeling a little queasy, so I settled for a yogurt and a croissant.
As luck would have it, the bus for which I had bought a ticket turned out to be a local, so I decided to skip that one and jump on a direct bus run by different line—which meant I had to pay a second fare. I figured that I could mail Nancy the unused ticket and she could use it to get to Galway when she comes over in a few weeks. Apparently, the bus I was on was “direct” only after it left Dublin, so I saw more of the city than expected before we got on the highway to Galway. By then it had started to get dark, so what could have been my exciting first look at the Irish countryside was rather dull and uninspiring. But after so many hours en route from Cincinnati, all I wanted to do anyway was close my eyes and fall asleep.
Fortunately, my hotel was just a short walk down the block from the bus station, so I was able to get to bed pretty quickly.