I’m writing a series of posts about my trip to Ireland, but I thought I’d start with some things you should know if you get the chance to go:
Driving on the left side of the road isn’t too rough. You get used to it pretty fast.
Other than the highways, the roads are really narrow. As in, here-comes-a-tour-bus-that-looks-like-it’s-heading-straight-for-us-and-ohmygod-we’re-about-to-die-aaaghhhh. You’ll find yourself and your passenger holding your breath and leaning to the left a lot, as if that will give the car more room on the non-existent left shoulder to avoid sudden death.
Also, street signs are a luxury. Maps have street names, but street signs are practically non-existent and no one uses them anyway, so maps are useless.
Also, the Irish are not the best direction-givers. Or maybe they are, in some alternate universe where “directions” mean somewhere you don’t actually ever care about finding.
(Are you seeing a theme here?)
Every single person but one gave us wrong directions. And I’m guessing she got it right because there were only two steps involved.
Here’s an example, from the sweet, well-meaning waiter at The American Bar on the Aran Islands: “To get to the Black Fort, go out of the bar and make a right, then walk past a hotel, up a hill, and you’ll see it. You can’t miss it!” (We heard that last phrase over and over, always said with a cheerfulness that made me want to poke my eyes out with a fork.)
I’m sorry, sweet, well-meaning waiter, you’re wrong. We’ll totally miss it, and you know why? Because when you said “make a right” you actually meant, “Go out of the bar, walk down a winding hill for a bit, and then turn right.”
Mom and I are smart people! Who know how to read maps and have been on tons of road trips! It shouldn’t be this difficult!
Now you understand my excessive Guinness consumption.
“Straight on” will become your favorite phrase, because in the context of directions it means no confusing turns or guessing about streets that bend at weird angles, though you do have to learn how to go straight through a roundabout. (Take the exit directly across from where you started.)
Let’s move on to truths that aren’t about driving:
It rains a lot, even in summer. But you won’t care because you’re in Ireland where the sights are stunning and the people so, so nice. If directionally challenged.
The whole country is like a park. Lush, well groomed, beautiful. Yellow is a popular house color, which looks nice against all that green.
The coffee is universally good. Strong and tasty.
Plan on potatoes with at least two meals a day, if not three. You can forget about your low-carb diet when you go to Ireland.
Weird truth: The Aran Islands are the only place in Ireland without a police force. Since we Kahlers never miss a good opportunity, I went for assault and Mom took armed robbery. But only if the person gave especially terrible directions.
P.S. For a different perspective on Ireland – Northern Ireland, in particular – check out my friend Ned Dougherty’s blog, Teach Poet.