Although we considered staying an extra night in Dingle, because it’s AWESOME, the voice of reason, Tom reminded me that these long drives don’t agree with me, and it would be best to get on the road and find our next stop.
Confession time: I’m the most disorganized person on the planet, EXCEPT when it comes to vacation. I’m like the Clark W. Griswold of Ireland. My time there is limited, and I must maximize my opportunity and take advantage of ALL there is to see and do and drink and eat and talk. I spend months researching the B&Bs, I use Google Maps to plan the route, I cross reference the B&Bs on an excel spreadsheet and I chart possible restaurants, detours, places of interest, and in this case, potential stops for our “Fly by the seat of our pants night.”
Tom and I have been planning a trip to Ireland for years, and way long ago, he asked, “Why can’t we just get in the car and drive, do we really need an itinerary?” I probably rolled my eyes and definitely scared the shit out of his with my resounding “YES!” You need one, because Ireland kicks so much ass, that you would stay in the first place you stopped for the time, and end your trip only having been in one place. You need an itinerary to keep you moving, because Ireland is like drinking at Finley’s during the day when there’s a game: You start early, intending to leave early, you maybe think you might go to dinner or meet some friends that live in the city at another bar, but when it all comes down to it, you’re there at closing time with Kevin and Laura and maybe Julie, with just the one bar to show for your visit to the city. The entire nation of Ireland is like this.
So we approach the car (I’m eying it balefully because I hate the bastard), “with no direction known” and exit Dingle for our treacherous ride over the mountains, and listen to the jerk on the radio telling us NOT to drive in the interior of the country, it’s far too dangerous. We have to go to the interior, because we have to get to Dublin to catch our flight in two days, and the only way to Dublin is through the interior. So we drive in the general direction of Dublin. Tom mentions Cashel, but I would like to get to Tullamore, where the roads are extremely treacherous. This drive would not be exhausting, but irritating, as it is windy and rainy but people are scared of snow, so no one on the road travels over 20km/hr. The two hour trip to Cashel takes about 4 to 5.
As we get closer, Tom thumbs through the guide book for ideas. He mentions an estate in Ireland. We have no map of this part, so we follow the signs for Cashel, hoping to run into signs for the town where the estate is located. We do find signs, and find ourselves on the worst nightmare an American tourist in Ireland could imagine: the one lane country road.
Here’s another little helpful tidbit about driving in Ireland: the don’t just post the main arteries – if there’s a way to take a one lane road, two hairpin turns, and a footbridge to a locale, they will post signs stating that this is the direction, if it will, eventually, get you there. This was one of those times. After meandering the snow and ice covered one way path, a few run-ins with a milk truck, and some serious stress level in the car, we ditched the estate idea, and decided just find a home for the night and some pints.
I dropped Tom off at the local tourism office and circled the perimeter of the downtown area, located right blocks away from the main attraction – The Rock of Cashel, which is not really a rock, but a former castle and monastery, among other things. I could bore you with historic details about St. Patrick banishing the devil from a cave and the rock landing in Cashel, but let’s just say it’s really cool old broken stuff with amazing views in the middle of town.
The Cashel Tourism Office was Closed!
I collect Tom from the tourism office, where he had no luck, and we decide to go door-to-door, slightly less like Jesus and Mary, in search of a bed for the night. All around the rock are tons of signs for B&Bs. The first one is full, the second one is closed for the season, and finally, I take him to a third where we get a room. We grab our stuff, head upstairs, relax, take naps, hit the potty, etc and make our way out to hit the town. Before we leave, Tom looks in the nightstand (Why? I don’t know) and locates the Book of Mormon. Even if you’re not Irish, you probably know that most of the country is Roman Catholic -divorce was legalized in 1995 and you can forget about abortion. Leave it to us to stumble upon the only Mormons.
Once again, we wind up at a large dinner we didn’t need but was extremely delicious (we might be the only people to have gained weight in Ireland), and hit the pubs. We walk around a bit, a little leery, because most of them don’t have windows and we don’t know what we’re getting into because we can’t look in. This is common in Ireland, but we just haven’t become accustomed to it. We end up at the end of the main street, have one beer and leave. It was like the Bennigan’s of Cashel. We don’t like them here, so why bother? We then select a gamble, meaning we can’t see inside, but it looks ok, and if it’s not we can always gamble on another pub.
The town itself is an interesting mix of ruin and commerce. One of our favorite sights was an cool, old, broken, building with an Indian restaurant jutting out of the side of it. They can’t tear it down, because it’s historic and protected, so just add on the Indian restaurant. So just imagine a quaint, picturesque town with charming storefronts and lovely ruins, with a grocery store in the bottom. It’s pretty hilarious.
So in we go to our second pub, and it’s fairly similar to Sean Thornton’s stop at his first pub in Ireland, in that he ordered a beer, and tried to make polite conversation and at first, no one responded. Tom and I scored a table by the fire (big bonus – it was cold that day and these people are not crazy about heat) and the TV so that we could watch the local rugby game. Just wait it out- they’ll talk to us – we learned that at Dick Mack’s. At some points, I tried to discuss rugby with the guys at the next table and was met with extremely curt answers. Ooookay. So then I go outside for the bathroom and a smoke. In places where bars are old, bathrooms were considered a luxury, so most of them are add-ons or in other buildings not connected. The smoking area is under a heat lamp between the two buildings. As I exit, I note that the gentlemen from the next table are out there and I decide to join them.
Having visited Ireland right after their smoking ban was effected, and dealing with it in Chicago, one thing non-smokers might not know is that they are social havens. People banned outside to smoke join together, sometimes even longer than they intended. Apparently these guys didn’t get the memo. I got a lighter, and a curt nod. That’s it.
I walk into Tom and said, “We need to break them. We have to wait it out.” And we both get that tired look on our faces. He says he thinks it’s going to be an early night, and I agree. We’d had a late night last night with Sean and Fiona and all of their shenanigans. Which means the curse was broken. As soon as you claim that it’s not going to be an early night, out comes the whiskey and the singing, and that’s exactly what happened. Our taciturn neighbor, as it turns out, was not named Curt, but Jerry, and I convinced Tom that we didn’t have a far walk and he should enjoy his favorite vice, some good Irish whiskey. Jerry and I eventually became friends, and we closed the bar, as per usual. Not wanting to break tradition, we went to Abrakebabra for some late night food we didn’t need. After a mild issue with a drunken teenager (way worse than us), we stumbled into the night and onward to our confirmedly weird hosts. When we mentioned their name earlier in conversation with our new friends, they said the family that runs our B&B was strange. In Irish terms, that could mean they are serial killers.
We wake up late, after setting the alarm, and head down for our Mormon breakfast in an interestingly decorated room. We linger a bit over coffee and oatmeal, eggs and yogurt, and decide to pack up the car, and make our way to the Rock. As it is literally just down the block, we will walk.
CLOSED DUE TO WEATHER.
And when we got back to our car, we had a parking ticket. But that didn’t stop us from taking some pics and having a good time. Now it has become a goal – one day we will make it there – and we will get inside!