The post this week is a guest post from the man who first got me to start journaling my adventures, my father, Randy. So, yes he does have kids, but none of them are dependants. I asked him to write up a blog post on his recent trip to Ireland with my mother.
I am Zeke’s Dad and retired. I have always enjoyed traveling. Each trip is an adventure, whether it was hitch-hiking and freight train hopping as a teenager, taking my first plane trip with my wife Holly to Greece for a month of island hopping, or a cross country trip in a cargo van with the kids. On all my trips, I have kept a journal. So, I am pleased to comply with Zeke’s request to write an entry for his travel blog about our recent trip to Ireland.
I asked Zeke to act as my travel agent. Here are a few notes and observations.
First of all, United vs. Lufthansa. Our flight on United was direct to Dublin, a little over 5 hours, and our return trip on Lufthansa has a stop in Frankfort, making it 10 ¼ hours. The United plane showed its wear and tear. We had exit seats but there was less leg room than on Lufthansa. On United there was no in-flight entertainment. The food was bland and the flight attendants “frumpy”. On our Lufthansa trip, we had exit seats with plenty of leg room. It was a newer, cleaner plane with a variety of in-flight entertainment. The food was good. When Holly requested a vegetarian meal, the flight attendant, smartly dressed, went into business class to construct a meal. In addition, they offered hot towels after each meal and complimentary drinks (wine, Bailey’s, cognac).
Next mode of transportation was our rental car which was pre-arranged. We used Enterprise and got a Fiat Panda, manual shift. It was a little difficult finding the rental desk in the airport as it was separate from the other rental car agents. The big question for 119 euros do you get the additional insurance which drops your deductable from 1400 euros to 250 euros and do you get a GPS for 25 euros a day? What do you do? You take a shuttle from the airport to the rental lot. They are quick and efficient in getting you in your car. But be sure you ask them show you how to work lights, wipers, location of gas tank and spare tire.
The true adventure begins when you get into the driver’s seat on the right hand side of the vehicle. The pedals are in the same order (gas, brake, clutch) but they are so close together it is easy to step on the gas instead of the brake – YIKES!
Ready, set, go. Ooops! LEFT! You must constantly remind yourself to stay left. So when I started the engine I would look at Holly and together we would say LEFT. With a map in Holly’s lap, which essentially is useless for she is map reading challenged, we are on our way.
The first thing you notice is how narrow the roads are and that everyone driving on your right side is so close to you that you move left until the one riding in the passenger seat yells that you are too close to the vehicles parked on the left side of the roadway. No wonder the cars that have side view mirrors that collapse are pushed in towards the door. The roads do not compare to those in the good ol’ USA. Their highways are our roadways and their interstates our dual highways with speeds of 100kph to 120kph. I stopped trying to keep up and just let the natives pass at will.
That recent phenomenon called the roundabout that is springing up as traffic control in the US is a common occurrence in Ireland. All but the M marked highways have them at most major intersections. LEFT! Ramps are speed bumps and traffic calming is a narrowing of the road to slow you down when you enter a town.
Finally, the signage is dismal. The locals will agree with me on this point. Their retort is that you should have seen it before the EU. You can hardly find them much less read them. Some roads change names a half a dozen times in a single stretch. We decided it was better to go from point to point. Only remember, that the furthest point of interest is at the top and the next closest at the bottom of the sign. When in doubt, pull over and ask as we did in Blarney. We stopped a nun (a Canadian) in the rain to ask directions. She volunteered to cram into the backseat and direct us to her convent and then describe the two turns needed to Blarney Castle. Kissing the Blarney stone would not have helped.
Driving on the left is a challenge. It can bring on many anxious moments, but I would not travel any other way. For how would I be able to see and appreciate the beautiful Irish countryside or the intimacy of the quaint and picturesque towns or the hustle and bustle of the urban centers like Dublin, Kilarney or Galway? Or the ability to find the oldest Irish pub for an evening of beer and food to celebrate our survival.