A favorite arrival point at Shannon Airport—before it disappeared
With a few exceptions, nearly all direct flights from North America into Europe are overnight. Dublin claims two of these daytime exceptions: on Norwegian from Newburgh (N.Y.) and on Aer Lingus, at least seasonally from New York-JFK. But if your destination is the west of Ireland, Shannon Airport in County Clare has the benefit of a calmer, more leisurely welcome—except its transatlantic arrival times don’t leave much room for a good night’s rest.
Whether you caught a few hours of sleep or watched movies instead, you’re likely to feel turned around and bleary-eyed while clearing immigration and collecting your luggage. With this in mind, I had planned to recommend a favorite of mine: a cafe immediately to your left upon entering the arrivals hall.
For more than a decade, if I weren’t being met by family, I paused here a while before renting a car or hopping a bus into Limerick. (Note for solo or budget travelers especially: Running from Galway to Cork, Bus Éireann’s route 51 stops somewhat frequently at Shannon Airport.). I would buy a mediocre coffee and sometimes a vegetarian Irish breakfast, log in to the free wifi to email my family that I had safely arrived, and occasionally even nap while sitting up. If I had withdrawn Euros from an ATM, I could break the larger bills into smaller, more easily useable denominations.
When Cathlin and I most recently landed, we found comfortable seats, ordered a tide-me-over breakfast of beans and toast, fell into conversation with three generations of a family traveling together on our flight, and sorted through our bags to figure out where we had packed our daughter’s diapers.
So you might imagine my double take hardly two months later when I walked into that same familiar setting only to find the food counter shuttered and all of its seating torn out. The attendant at the adjacent information booth pointed me toward JJ.Ruddles Bar & Restaurant—a new, sleek, and more expensive option across the arrivals hall. Its booths looked comfortable, I must say, but the line was long. (I’ll write soon about a not-exactly secret, but less obvious, method of ordering a coffee without the wait.)
What I’ve appreciated much more than the quality of the now-extinct cafe was what it facilitated: a place to rest and claim a bite to eat and a source of caffeine at a reasonable cost. You might also excuse yourself to the restroom for a few minutes to brush your teeth and/or wash your face. Cathlin reminds me these basics are requirements for feeling like a person again, even more so than a meal or coffee.
We’ll give the new JJ.Ruddles a go the next time we’re at Shannon, but there are many other airports where you might find yourself arriving bright and early—and sometimes not even bright, only early. Wherever your red-eye places you, consider stopping for whatever length of time you need to feel grounded and awake enough before picking up your rental car or figuring out public transportation. Allowing time to feel unhurried means you’ll be less bleary-eyed on the road and can help you set an ideal pace for enjoying your trip.