Ireland 1999 (Part 1)
The Emerald Isle. The land of little leprechauns. Ireland. My friend Colleen decided to join me on this adventure, and an adventure it was. I was in Naples Italy, she was coming from DC, we met in the airport in London (and with two different terminals and two different restricted access zones it was a challenge). We boarded our flight to Dublin only to find out that we were going to Ireland during the World Rugby Championships (no wonder I had a hard time getting a reservation in Dublin!). We landed, picked up our luggage, and went to get the rental car. We decided to upgrade from the microscopic sized car I had originally reserved to a small Nissan, it was an automatic which was a good thing! Then when I tried to pay for it on my AMEX, I get told that AMEX has cancelled their insurance in Ireland, Jamaica, and Isreal. What exactly the problem was in those three countries is beyond me, but we ended up getting stiffed on insurance since I had left my Gold MasterCard at home. So we go to the lot to get the car and the first words out of my mouth are “What a piece of s&*t!!” Now please remember that in Italy I expect most people not to understand me, and needless to say the Thifty people weren’t happy to hear my judgement about their car. The hood was faded, it was dirty, the driver side was scraped. The Thrifty man made some sort of comment about documenting existing damage and Colleen burst out laughing. On her side (the left side), the side of the car was one big scrape/dent. Part of the molding/trim was broken and sticking out at an angle. As we drove off the lot, carefully saying “left, left, left” as a constant reminder to stay on the left side of the road, Colleen and I made several observations. First of all, if we do wreck the car, who will be able to tell? Secondly, they must have pegged us as Yanks from our first words and decided to give us the car we could damage the least. And thirdly, the reason why AMEX cancelled its coverage is because us Yanks would wreck the car, but the rental car company wouldn’t fix the cars. Why would you if another Yank was just going to wreck it again? Anyways, we headed south of Dublin under partly cloudy skies. We made good time, even on the small narrow roads of the Wicklow Mountains and made it to Glendalough just before dark. We found a B&B and crashed for the night.
We got up early the next day and headed to the ruin monastery at Glendalough. Since wewere up so early (830AM!), the visitor center was closed, so we drove up to the upper lake and walked around some of the ruins up there. The weather was a bit overcast but still nice. The ruins were pretty impressive and the Celtic crosses were everywhere. Some sheep were running wild munching on grass on the side of the lake. It was so amazingly pretty, calm, and serene. We went back to the visitor center to see the lower ruins. On a whim, I had brought my New Zealand All Blacks rugby shirt and as we walked to the round tower, some older Irish gentleman let me know that “Your All Blacks did well last night.” Kind of cool. As soon as we got into the car, it started to rain, perfect timing! We drove from Glendalough south to Waterford. As we drove, Colleen and I both decided that we didn’t need to drop a fortune on crystal, so we decided to not do the crystal factory tour and remove any shopping temptation. We got to Waterford just as church was being let out so we looked in a couple. It was very different than what I was used to in Italy, even though both were Catholic. Afterwards we decided to grab a bite to eat. Now this was going to be our first real meal in Ireland, so we wanted pub food. Of course, the first pub we come to doesn’t serve food. “Alcohol only” the barman replied proudly. We had a pint there and were amazed as people drifted in to drink, and only drink, on a Sunday! We finally did find a pub to eat and thus started the “chips every day keeps the artery clogged” contest. It seems that 2 out of 3 meals a day had some sort of fried potatoes with it. I’m not sure these people understand the concept of green vegetables. After Waterford, we drove to Killkenny. This was a great little town where we wandered the ancient streets for awhile. It was very picturesque and just seemed more Irish than Waterford if that makes sense. Since it was Sunday, we couldn’t go into the castle, but we walked around it and into its gardens. After we had a beer to fortify us, we headed west to Cashel. We arrived just at sunset and I got some great photos of the Rock of Cashel at sunset. We found a B&B and then did the pub thing for dinner. Our goal: to sample a different local beer every night. I mean, you have to have a goal!