Originally published 14 November 2012.
An economist, an engineer and a professional communicator rent a car in Ireland. They begin to drive on the “wrong” side of the road (the left). And off they go to find a Great Gaelic Experience!
For our first feat: driving on the left! Somehow, all the rental car people could tell we were American, so we got asked multiple times, “Have you ever driven on the left before?” We were warned of inadvertently driving too close to the footpath (the shoulder) on the left of the road. Apparently, this is a common problem they face when Americans get behind the wheel! Now before we go further, let me introduce you to the players. You know me, of course.
Matt (the economist) is a friend I know from church. He lived in DC for a while before moving again for a new job. He and I remained friends, and when Matt mentioned needing to get his passport, I told him to let me know when he gets it and where he wants to go. He said Ireland, so here we are!
Cherie (the engineer) is a friend of ours from Tampa, FL. She, Matt and I have mutual friends, and Cherie and I have traveled together in the past. When I heard she needed a break from work, I asked if she wanted to go to Ireland with us! She’s never been out of the country either, so she said YES! We all met up at baggage claim in Dublin and started in on our adventure!
We sprang for renting a GPS because, well, someone needs to know where we’re going and we sure don’t! The interesting thing about this is that apparently the Irish don’t use specific addresses. The guy at the rental car place said that would be too easy, of course! He said even if there was a specific address, the GPS might take you a few doors down. So, we’re making do with what we have.
First stop, Galway! Matt is an excellent wrong-side-of-the-road driver! He got us through Dublin and all the way into Galway with minimal difficulty. Cherie and the GPS helped move us along, and we only went around one roundabout twice because we missed our exit. I’d say that’s pretty good!
We’d planned to spend several hours in Galway to experience true Gaelic, old-world Irish, and I think we did pretty well! We stopped for lunch at a great little pub. We thankfully missed the lunch rush and had the place almost to ourselves. Cherie and I both got the Shepherd’s Pie while Matt decided on the Irish breakfast. After the nourishment, we were ready to take on the town!
We found a few of the historic sights like the Spanish Arch, several pubs in buildings that are 500-600 years old or more, the Claddagh (we think it was a church), and several memorials and other churches around town. The streets are belgium block, which sort of looks like big gray brick, and while it was overcast and drizzly most of the day off and on, we enjoyed ourselves! I am very impressed with how friendly everyone is here!
And then came the foiled escape. That’s right. We messed up our exit plan. But all turned out well in the end! I like to send postcards. I think it’s fun, and people like getting mail, right? So I had stopped into this little store and got 5 Euro worth of postcards (15 of them). One small problem: I forgot the cards int he shop and didn’t realize it till we were already in the car heading out of town. Since we were sitting in completely stopped traffic, both Matt and Cherie asked if I wanted to go back for them, since we weren’t going anywhere. I think maybe they were joking, but you know me… Sure, why not?
Matt’s and my phones don’t work in Europe. Cherie’s does, but I didn’t take my phone with me, and so I did not have her number with me. I said for them to stay in the nearly stand-still traffic, and I’d come back there (we were maybe 2 kms from the store where I’d left the cards). If they started moving before I got back, I mentioned that they could pull over into someone’s driveway or into a parking spot along the road, and I’d be back asap. That’s not what happened.
See, this is why I typically travel alone. When I mess up like that or get lost or do something stupid, no one is effected but me. No one knows the stupid things I do except me and the folks who read my blog–after everything is all fixed and good again. Solo travel is the best.
I found the store lickety-split with no problems and got back relatively quickly, I thought, but by the time I got back to where we’d separated, they were gone! So I walked around that road for a bit, then I walked another way, then I walked down another road, then back to the place where I’d left them… All to no avail!
Finally, I decided to go into a B&B and ask to use their Internet. The first one I went into said no, but thankfully the next one, called Aran House B&B, said yes! I thought I’d be able to find Cherie’s phone number and we’d be back together in no time. But nothing I tried proved fruitful for a couple of hours. The guy at the B&B was so nice! He let me right in and showed me to his computer at the front desk and let me use the Internet for hours so I could try and locate my friends.
Eventually, the guy at the B&B suggested calling the police (called the Garda here). So that’s what I did, and as soon as I stared explaining the situation, the lady on the other end of the phone said, “You lost your friends, right? They’ve already told me about it. I’ll give them a call.” After only a bit more confusion about where the B&B was located (no exact addresses, remember), Matt and Cherie and I were reunited at last! I only got a bit of a scolding. But who wasn’t where they said they’d be in the first place? The people with the car and my phone.
Next stop: Lahinch and the Cliffs of Moher! For those who would like a point of reference, that’s the cliffs where part of The Princess Bride was filmed! With any luck, we’ll be staying in Killarney tonight as planned! But to see where we really end up, you’ll simply have to follow along!