This is a first for me, I’ve always meant to finish off each adventure with one last post. Kind of a wrap up of the highlights and frustrations that made the trip special. So here I am, bored to death, on a nine hour flight across the planet with nothing else to do. If you bare with me, I’ll try to recap some of the most memorable things about our trip. By the way, thank you to those who made the occasional comment. Even though I know several of you were following our adventures, the comments helped keep me going.
Our last day in Ireland included eating our last “full Irish breakfast”, visiting our last Irish castle, and the last of the impossibly narrow Irish roads. Yes, my friend google did it to me again. We will always remember the friendly Irish people, from the friendly drunk in the pub, to those who went out of their way to give us directions when lost.
Karen and I agree that one of our favorite thing in Ireland is the scenery. The most spectacular being the rugged coastline. The interior is like a patchwork quilt of tiny fields of many colors and textures. We were surprised by the lush forest we found in all corners of the country. No, Ireland doesn’t have the majestic mountains of the western US, but the mountains here are very rugged and beautiful.
I can’t say enough about the nice people we met along the way. Staying most of the time in B&Bs we had a chance to visit with lots of people from many walks of life. Every one of our hosts was genuinely interested in our journey and all were anxious to share their favorite parts of Ireland. We met a few characters along the way too, and all were very talkative. One thing that I’ve learned is that when ever I engaged anyone (just walking down the street, or sitting at breakfast) a conversation would develop. I’ve decided that I must truly be Irish, I seem to be able to out talk even an Irishman.
I’ve totally lost count of how many castles, ruins, ancient forts, and churches we’ve seen. I enjoyed all of it, some more than others. I think my favorite castle was in Killkenny. My favorite church was in Dublin, and favorite ancient site was New Grange. I really like old stuff so I had lots of fun poking around as we traveled.
Driving, well this was a road trip. My experiences driving were a big part of what I’ll remember about this trip. Everything you may have heard about driving in Ireland is probably true. There are only a few motorways (freeways to us) and they seldom allow you to see much of the country. The majority of the national highways (the “N” roads) vary from comfortably wide to ridiculously narrow. The rest of the roads are just very narrow, bumpy, and twisty. Many of the small country roads are single lane with pull-outs. In the end I’ve adjusted pretty well, but it takes nerves of steel.
Irish drivers all drive way too fast. They’ve obviously never had driver training or safety classes. You either have to join them or get run over. Here its normal to see farm tractors, either by themselves or towing something big, driving down the road (even the motorway!). My scariest experience was meeting a semi truck on a tight curve, on a very narrow road, at a high rate of speed. He was over the center line, in my lane. I can swear that two things really can occupy the same space at the same time, we’re living proof.
I would still have to say that driving is the best way to get around in Ireland. Even though it could be frightening. The trains just don’t go to many places, primarily the bigger cities. Traveling by bus could be alright if you can take the time to work out the routes and how to use them. For getting around in the cities busses and light rail are very good once you get them figured out. We saw lots of bikers bicycling around he country, but that’s for the young and fit.
We’ll miss Ireland and we’ll always have fond memories of our adventures. Having said that though, we are anxious to get home and get back to our normal lives. The garden, my trains, Karen’s scrapbooking, and most of all, our friends and neighbors. As much as we’ve come to love Ireland, there just isn’t any place else like home.
Jim & Karen
PS, We’re home now and wandering around in packing. It was a fantastic trip!