We’ve just returned from Ireland after a whirlwind September that found us swapping our spiffy wedding shoes for hiking boots, and Champagne for Guinness. From an Iowa wedding to Co. Mayo we flew and touched down in too many airports to remember. Except for Shannon. In all my years of traveling to Ireland, I never grow tired of flying into Shannon airport. Descending from the sky, catching that first glimpse of green I begin to smile. My smile grows wider with each recognizable shape: sheep, stone walls and laundry drying in the breeze. I get all choked up inside. I love this place.
Unlike the expanse of Heathrow or O’Hare, Shannon is on par with a tidy mid-West train station in terms of finding your way both in and out–no crowds, three highly visible ATM ‘s, one restaurant and a couple coffee/cafes, bathrooms with no lines; the choices are easy. I like easy.
Creating ease for our participants is always a priority in planning every aspect of our Retour. The thresholds of arriving and departing are tender for different reasons, and Shannon airport offers a gentle experience in both directions. From having a cup of tea or full Irish breakfast at the Limestone Café to going through US customs in the wink of an eye, navigating through Shannon is a breeze. The US operates border preclearance facilities at Shannon airport. Staffed and operated by US Customs and Border Protection officers, travelers pass through Immigration and Customs, Public Health and Department of Agriculture inspections before boarding their plane home. How great it was to land in Philadelphia on our way home and not go through a tedious Customs process!
If you’re thinking of renting a car to explore more of Ireland after the Retour, Shannon is the perfect place to take those first tentative right hand turns as you adjust to driving on the other side of the road. The traffic is light and the roundabouts are uncomplicated giving you a chance to get the idea before you’re driving in Galway.
Another convenient feature at Shannon is the Radisson Park Inn, which is located directly across the street from the main terminal entrance. While not a 5-star hotel, and not particularly Irish in character, it can’t be beat for location if flying in the night before and having a bit of rest sounds appealing. They even have a flight arrival and departure board in the lobby. You’ll be given a warm Irish welcome and a bed you’ve been longing for since flying over Greenland.
But…the best part of all? Your first breath of Irish air. There is nothing like it in the world. Doesn’t matter if it’s raining and blustery or a clear, sunny sky with a gentle breeze, the air is amazing. From here on, all air will be compared to the air in Ireland. Every once in awhile, we’ll say, “It smells like Ireland,” and feel our bodies soften into memories of sitting by our turf fire, walking the green fields, sitting on stone walls, surrounded by sheep on the road, and laundry dancing on the line.