I am taking the day off from travel to catch up on the blog, laundry, reading and napping, while Pat and friends are off to the Kerry Peninsula and a boat trip to Skellig Michael – a rock formation that formerly was home to a
monastery and now is populated mostly by puffins and tourists. I may regret the decision not to go. It is a constant on this trip and others we have taken to decide what you can take time to see and what you have to pass up. I saw the Beara Peninsula yesterday and the Connemara Peninsula a few days ago. How many rustic peninsulas is the right number? Pat will come back tonight with photos of what I have missed, and I will add some to the next blog along with further misgivings.
After a week traveling, we are settled for a final week in the town of Kenmare, in Southwest Ireland just south of Killarney and very close to the Dingle, Kerry and Beara Peninsulas. Kenmare is a beautiful little town, and
we are ensconced in a very nice apartment. There are plenty of restaurants and pubs, a fair amount of local music, a 3,000-year-old stone circle (oldest and largest in Southwest Ireland they say,) and a couple of golf courses. I have been ready to settle down for a few days after a week of driving.
Anyone who has traveled around Ireland, or England for that matter, will talk about driving on the left (wrong) side of the road. I am including Pat’s article in the post about her own experiences. On main roads, it really is not
all that difficult. Cars with automatic transmissions cost a good deal more to rent, so the stick shift on the left does add a degree of complexity. But the real test is on the smaller country roads which aren’t wide enough for two cars to pass comfortably. The rider on the passenger side is constantly cringing from what appears to be sudden death on her left, and I am sure that drivers of those wide tour buses are taught not to give up the center of the road or to make eye contact.
Here’s Pat’s version:
Since David chose to rename our travel blog “Travels with Patty,” I thought it appropriate to weigh in with “Traveling with David.” After all these years, we are pretty settled in how we make decisions; however, some red flags arise when we travel. I often would prefer to spend the day walking the countryside, taking a hike or sitting on the beach, where David likes to find the nearest museum, and pub to read the New York Times. In any case we work it out –see previous blog entry.
I do admit that David has had his patience tested on a few occasions. He has taken up the majority of the driving “on the wrong side of the road” after I made a failed attempt.
The story goes … I took my turn behind the wheel with David coaching me to move to the middle of the road and take the “roundabouts to the left (the damn roundabouts). I was clicking along pretty well when I saw the “traffic calming” signs coming in to the small village of Ballybofey. Not a place we were planning on spending any time. My goal — just get through town. Cars were parked along the side of the road leaving little room to travel well. I clipped the left side of the car on a curb and knew immediately that I and done damage. Sure enough as David looked he said, “you broke it”. I inspected–two flat tyres — sidewalls shattered. YIKES!! Not to worry, on the advice of friends, we purchased the maximum amount of insurance at the rental dealer. But when we called, they said that tires and widows were not covered. With a little luck, the people of Ballybofey were very helpful. A local insurance agent called a tow truck and a young man was on the scene in a few minutes. Since we were in northwest of Ireland where they speak some Gaelic, we couldn’t understand much of what he said, although he replaced the tyres and we were on our way in about 45 minutes — a couple hundred Euros poorer.
Needless to say David is doing most of the driving now. So I guess “Traveling with David isn’t that bad after all.
Ok, we have been on a fair number of those little roads, as the great sights in
the west are not on the superhighways. The real trick – I think – is focus. Don’t look up; don’t relax; just pay attention. The destinations and stops along the way can justify the concentration. As you can see from the map here, we began in Dublin, did a loop through the North to Belfast and Derry, then headed south to Galway and now Kenmare.
This route took us along the Antrim Coast, past a famous rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede and the Giant’s Causeway. I am not nuts about heights but was bullied into going over the rope bridge. I considered ending it all right out there on the coast rather than have to walk back over the bridge.
From Galway we saw the Connemara Peninsula, which is truly beautiful but doesn’t get as much press as the others to the south, and then traveled past the Burren and stopped at another amazing physical rock formation, the Cliffs of Moher. (I say we went past the Burren because we happened to be traveling the same day as the “tour de Burren” bicycle race, and the police re-routed us around it rather than through it, so we didn’t see much other than more fields, sheep and farm equipment. Pat keeps saying, of sights that we pass up, “We will never come by here again.” Hopefully that isn’t true.
These must-see destinations are very efficiently operated by the Irish. You go into the car park, and often there is a guided tour. There is a shuttle bus at the Giants Causeway which you can take either or both
directions. (We walked town and rode back up.) The Cliffs of Moher has a number of walking routes and trails.
And while it may sound cliché, the Irish are universally very friendly and helpful – much more so than other places we have been. I suppose this is partly due to the fact that they speak a form of English and that many of them are easy to understand., but I think there is more to it than just the ease of communication.