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London/Dublin Day 8: To the Emerald Isle

It’s time to say goodbye to London for a week.

We’re headed over to Ireland with Jim and Stacey to spend some time in the seaside town of Kinsale. But first, we’ll have two nights with Grainne’s brother Donal and his wife Siobhan in the little town of Dalkey, south of Dublin.

It’s a short, smooth journey flying across the Irish Sea on British Airways. The turbulence only starts when I get to the rental car counter.

Renting a car in Ireland is always an adventure - and seldom a good one. For reasons unknown to me, Ireland basically does not accept your car insurance. Nor do they accept the insurance offered by many major credit cards. So expect the cost of your car rental cost to double once they tack on the special Irish insurance.

OK – I was prepared for that. But what I wasn’t prepared for was Avis. Let’s be clear – this is not the “Avis Preferred” service that I’ve become accustomed to in the U.S.A. where you arrive at the airport, head straight to your car, show your license and drive off.

40 minutes at the counter. 40 MINUTES. Things start normally enough. The young lady at the counter – Kate – finds my reservation right away. She took my driver’s license and starts typing in my information. It clearly isn’t going well.

She bangs on the keyboard of her computer, repeatedly hitting the return key and the occasional function key.

“You are from Georgia, yes?” she asked.

“Yes, Georgia, USA,” I reply in case she thinks I am from the country of Georgia.

She bangs on her keyboard some more. She consults her supervisor. They look puzzled.

“Surely you have my information,” I tell them. “I’m Avis Preferred.” I give them my Avis Wizard number.

She types in the Wizard number. Hits the return key another 37 times.

“You didn’t reserve the car on our website,” she tells me flatly.

No. No I didn’t. That’s because the Avis website price was twice that of the deal I got on Kayak. By the way, Avis lady, my email from Kayak clearly says “Reservation completed on Avis.”

She prints out a contract. I sign.

She writes down a long series of letters and numbers in a notebook. She grabs an envelope with what looks like a set of keys. She starts to hand them to me, but then pulls them back and starts looking at documents.

“The reservation number doesn’t match,” she says.

My red-head Irish wife, frustrated by the length of time I’ve been at the counter, walks up.

“What’s the problem,” she says sternly. “Three other customers have been helped in the time we’ve been waiting.”

My wife doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

Kate, the Avis lady, says little. She prints out another contract. I sign. We all trundle out to the rental car shuttle and finally get in our Volkswagen. We are finally on our way.

I’m pleased to say that the rest of day was fabulous. It’s great to see my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Donal and Siobhan. They have prepared a delicious lunch of soup, Irish brown bread, a selection of cheeses and of course pots and pots of tea.

After dropping Jim and Stacey at their hotel, Donal, Siobhan, Grainne and I go for a walk along the hills and down by the sea in Dalkey. We are blessed with another perfect day, and walk along the front of Killiney Bay and Coliemore Harbor. Children are swimming. Sailboats move silently through the water. And everyone is out enjoying the sun.

We end up in the village of Dalkey, where the Lobster Festival is in full swing. Hundreds of people are walking through the streets sampling the various lobster dishes being prepared outside. We forego eating since Siobhan is preparing a big dinner. We opt instead for a drink at Finnegan’s pub – my favorite watering hole in Dalkey.

We return back to Donal and Siobhan’s house and soon the house fills with family and friends. Donal and Siobhan’s son Barry and his wife Aisling are visiting from Australia. Their daughter Didi arrives with her boyfriend Rob. As if the occasion wasn’t special enough, it’s also Didi’s birthday. Jim and Stacey round out our dinner party.

We feast on roast beef, scalloped potatoes, peas with bacon and feta and salad. A bottle or three of wine is uncorked and consumed. Siobhan brings out a birthday cake and we sing the traditional song to Didi. Conversations are spirited and filled with laughter. I look around and see a family relishing their time spent together. It’s a family I’m lucky to be a part of.

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