"Athlone on the Shannon River" Athlone by edwis

Athlone Travel Guide: 24 reviews and 105 photos

No one ever told us

nor did any of our research ever point out that our Irish rental car would have the steering wheel on the right side! That means shifting manually with the left hand and driving on left side of the road. Oh, did Joan ever turn white when she discovered how she was to drive for the next six days. Then, she couldn’t find the air conditioning switch. I went into the rental shack and tell the young fellow that we have two problems with the car: one, the steering wheel is on the wrong side. He replies with a smile and asks, “What is number two”? I tell him we have no AC. He replies that no Irish cars have AC because it never gets that warm.…. We set off driving very cautiously on the left side of road toward the M5, and I think Joan is going to lose it big time very soon. But we get into the countryside without any major breakdowns; however, our passenger side left front hubcap kept hitting curbs and other roadside barriers, sometimes at pretty good speeds. It ended up mangled, but still attached to the wheel – a miracle!

Athlone:

Joan drives us to the middle of Ireland in about 2 ½ hours, a trip that usually takes about an hour. Coming through Kilbeggan, the car traffic seems to pick up and we follow along with the flow. A policeman (garda) directs us to turn right and follow the cars. Just outside the town, we pull into a dirt field for parking at the Friday night Kilbeggan horse races, which was the reason for all the traffic. We have to turn around and go against the incoming traffic coming from all directions to get back on our route. That was tough one.

We finally arrive in Athlone, County Westmeath, the largest city on the River Shannon, in the area known as “the midlands.”
After exciting in-town driving on narrow roads and more hubcap damage, we locate our lodging, the Bastion Street B&B, owned by two close guys, Vincent and Scott. Upon arrival, Vinnie is watering his flowers out front. He tells us this is the nicest day they have had all summer (this on September 7. The sun was shining, skies are bright blue, and temperature is at least 70 degrees! The next morning returns to Irish, cooler and foggy for a few hours. Our B&B was a record for the smallest room ever! There was no air conditioning (no need in Ireland!), and one window facing the street traffic. I started dreaming of a Radisson Hotel we saw earlier. In an attempt to refresh and regroup, I take a shower, but the stall is so small that you cannot turn around in it. So one day I washed my front and the next my rear side. To power up the shower, you also had to go out into the hallway to flip the switch. Joan says the place is just fine, but she could turn around in the shower.

Athlone is full of very colorful buildings from the 1600-1700s. Joan ran each morning along the paths of the Shannon while I walked, watching fisherman and crew boats in the fog. Just beautiful!

“The Taco Shop”

We stopped at a trendy, chrome and glass upscale bistro overlooking the Shannon. While we were having wine and mussels, we notice that the menu has a page of Polish food items such as pierogi and golabki, and learn that the waiter and all the staff are from Poland. They come here for a “better life.” The mussels in a wine broth were the best (and largest) we have ever eaten, including those in Brussels.

I ask the Polish waitress where in town we can find out about going on a river cruise, which we read about. She tells me we have to go to the Taco Shop, where they know all about that stuff. I repeated it back to her, “we go to the taco shop, right?” The next day we are strolling along the river and come upon a Bait & Tackle Shop and it dawns on us, Taco = Tackle. We found the river cruise.

Viking Cruise
At the shop, the owner tells us to come back at 3:00 PM, and he will take us on the Viking cruise at no charge. At 3:00, we climb up into the bright green Viking ship replica, complete with front dragon head. Then the gang from the local group home with their aides arrived, and the fun begins. We are all given plastic Viking helmets with two horns to wear on the cruise. The cruise with narration goes up the River Shannon into Lough Ree, the first of the three large lakes. We only go about 1/3 of the lake for it takes over four hours to traverse the whole first lake. As we pass the Lough Ree Yacht Club, about 10 three-person sailboats come all around our Viking ship weaving in and out for our entertainment. These are handcrafted varnished special class boats starting at 30,000 Euros each. Along the way we are served hot tea and biscuits. What a fun and educational day this turned out to be for us and the boys from the home.

In town

we find that World Cup Rugby 2007 fever is everywhere.
At Gertie Browns Pub, where we went for some “scoops” of Carlsberg after our cruise, we find that the USA is playing England. Everyone is cheering for the US. Seems they appreciate anyone beating the English.

Vinnie and Scott tell us of a Thai restaurant one block from the B&B that was awarded the 2007 best Thai restaurant in all of Ireland. We loved the place. Another restaurant was run by Romanians (who also came to Ireland for a better life) and we enjoyed a filet of Irish beef in a green peppercorn sauce and an appetizer of mushrooms in a garlic sauce there. Breakfast at Vinnie’s was an assortment of Irish breads (Irish Barm Brack, Fruit Soda, apricot and sesame), fruits, marmalades and cereals.

Irish clothing style tip: sometime GREEN always works. Really.
Overall a really good two days in Athlone seeing it all.

  • Last visit to Athlone: Sep 2007
  • Intro Updated Sep 21, 2007
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edwis

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware...”

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