Well it's easy: I had other priorities. I was focused on finding a singles trip - my last trip landed me as the only single in a group of 10 couples. No one had my back on the road and navigating was stressful. I wanted a guided trip (I was told this was). I wanted to be in a country where I already spoke the language (more or less). And they are called Vermont Bike Tours. Walking? Never occurred to me to ask.
I look at the actual bike mileage mapped out for us, and my heart sinks. Instead of of cycling over hilly coastal roads, I envision a giant tour bus full of obese Americans, hauling their asses in and out of tourist traps filled with plastic tchotchkes (I have an active imagination). Close to tears I call L, who is sympathetic - but also encouraging and philosophical. How bad can it be if it's a vacation? She has a point. And I've never been to Ireland.
VBT has booked me on British Airways (I don't have to do the booking - a relief in itself). The plane is as big as a housing development - we should have our own government. First Class has seats that recline to beds, Business Class has cubicles and seat-to-bed recliners (see below):
But first I have to get there. I'm on the red-eye. My seat mates are British siblings - smart, handsome and well spoken - giving me high expectations of the civilized flight ahead. Alas, they are also teenagers. They spend the entire flight either in animated conversation, or punching each other. When they tire of that, the boy invariably develops a violent case of the hiccups, or feels obliged to burst into a repeated phrase of some pop song - which enters my head, bounces around and never makes its way out. By the time they have drifted off to the heaven that is teenage slumber, I'm up for the count and headed for exhaustion. Ah well, you can't control everything.
But VBT meets us - as promised - at Shannon Airport. And this brings me to what will be a recurring theme: the comparison between Back Roads (my trip agency of last year in France), and VBT. Back Roads did meet us - but we had to make our way to the meeting place, a train ride away from the airport. I was in France. I was by myself. My language skills were rudimentary - even buying the train ticket was nerve wracking - jet lagged, with new and mysterious currency and a train schedule to abide by. I got lost on the way and arrived at the meeting point dry mouthed and stressed. VBT? We are met and bussed to the hotel in Ennis. We spend the night. And that's when I begin to relax a little about the biking mileage.
I'm not ready to get on a bike right now in any case; adjusting to traffic on the left side of the road is confusing enough as a pedestrian and I've been up for 24 hours. I allow myself a 2-hour nap, then amble slowly through the streets of this beautiful Irish town: