Our clocks are switching over to summer time officially inside the next 48 hours as I write, and that means that we get up an hour earlier in the mornings in broad daylight after the murk of the long winter.
It also means that the first wave of you will soon be arriving on vacation in the Emerald Isle and, after a Dublin trip last weekend, I have a worthwhile bit of advice for those among you who are making your first visit to the homeland.
It is a simple tip really, but maybe almost worth its weight in gold. Fly into Shannon Airport in the west rather than into Dublin. There is such a difference.
Flying into Terminal Two in Dublin Airport last weekend opened my eyes to a few modern realities about my country nowadays.
The terminal was built during the obese era of the Celtic Tiger, and it is representative of that. It is almost obscene in its design and scope.
The corridors are too long and too wide somehow, for a nation of our size, there are lifts and signage everywhere, high-tech screens in abundance, loud non-Irish music and, during my time there on a March weekend night, actually quite few people. It was akin to being in a vulgar kind of palace on the night after the ball and the banquet.
Outside, going back through Dublin City, I reflected ruefully that what I was experiencing was Anyairport in Anycity with hardly any indication, until I reached Dublin’s old city center, that I was in Ireland at all. The acrid reek of the Liffey was actually reassuring on the night.
Somebody told me a couple of years ago that there are still some travel agents in the U.S. who automatically book their clients into Dublin Airport when the clients say they want to visit Ireland. For some reason these agents are not adequately briefed about the wholesome destination alternatives provided by Shannon and indeed, to the best of my knowledge, Cork Airport.
So what I am saying strongly is, for heaven’s sake, if you want to instantly experience the real genuine so-called Hidden Ireland which is not hidden at all, then strongly instruct your agent to fly you into Shannon.
There is such a difference. Shannon Airport is modern and fully equipped with all the amenities but, instead of flying into Anycity Airport, you are alighting in the heart of the west from which, quite likely, your ancestors hailed all those generations ago.
And the place is genuinely warm and welcoming to all. Even the security folk have not forgotten the ancient art of smiling and the Cead Mile Failte.
The mood in arrivals is so different from Dublin. There is a rural kind of buzz and excitement in keeping with the reality that the mythical county of Clare is wrapped right up to the perimeter fence.
There is a good hotel only minutes away, and your taxi man’s son is probably the night porter. There is a good singing pub even closer most likely and, above all, you are in the west of Ireland with its resilience and craic and genuine welcome for all comers from the four corners of the earth whether or not they have Irish plasma in their veins.
I would like to believe that I sometimes give good hints here for our visitors. I doubt I have ever given better advice than this.
Fly direct to Shannon or Cork and you will immediately be in the Ireland that matters, and the Ireland you probably wished to experience as quickly as possible, rather than having to lose a day getting down here from the East Coast and the anonymous somehow one modernity of Terminal Two at Dublin Airport.
And remember who told you so!