Our visit to Ireland, July 25-28, was a comedy of errors mingled in with lots of great times and rollicking emotions.
Our arrival into Shannon Airport was innocuous enough. Hertz kept us waiting almost an hour, but we eventually got our car and headed toward our B&B to drop our luggage and head out for adventures. It had been another 5 a.m. morning, and with the trunk and our laps piled high with bags, our hungry, sleep-deprived kids were not feeling it, shall we say. So emptying the car was going to be a nice help.
Our first hint that things would not go smoothly in Ireland came when we could not for the life of us connect with our host or find the B&B. The ominous instructions had been to park at the local pub, which we only stumbled upon by accident, since it wasn’t on the map. We were to call our host from there to get directions to the house. Hmmmm…
Naturally the pub was closed, with not a person to be found. Why not use our mobile phones, you ask? Because for some mysterious reason, roaming wasn’t working, and service was very spotty. ARGH! Hanging out in the empty parking lot, we finally managed a workaround with one of our phones and tried to call but got no answer (apparently we had timed our call perfectly for the host’s gardening activity outside). And this area was seriously rural. The only sign of life nearby was a butcher shop down the road, but the butcher had never heard of the B&B. Double-ARGH! After almost two hours we gave up and decided to try again later.
By this point we were all hangry (not a typo), so with no GPS, we doubled back toward the airport to find a restaurant. We ended up having a very elegant, albeit late and tourist-priced, lunch.
Now this is where a do-over would come in handy.
By way of background, my wonderful husband had happily taken on the task of planning our Ireland trip and had poured heart and soul into it before we left the States. He had mapped out a marvelous, packed itinerary of seeing Ireland’s iconic landscapes and coastlines. But to achieve all of this during our brief three-day visit, we would have to hit the ground running, which meant now heading out toward the Cliffs of Moher at 4:00 pm, despite having burned up most of our day and collective energy with logistical frustrations.
By now, the kids’ short night of sleep was coming back to haunt us in the form of backseat eruptions, not helped by piles of bags boxing them in. Compounding the problem was my husband’s stress of adjusting to driving on the “wrong” side of the road, which requires incredible concentration and lots of if-I-have-to-pull-over yelling. And kudos to him, because I wasn’t willing to even try driving.
Any rational parents would have called it a day.
Which means we soldiered on.
First, one would think County Claire would have widened the road to their main tourist attraction by now. Seriously. It’s not quite a two-lane road, so you say a Hail Mary every time a truck or bus passes, of which there are many. My husband had been reduced to a single, skinny thread of raw nerve by the time we reached the parking lot for the Cliffs of Moher.
In keeping with our Murphy’s Law theme for the day, the fog and rain started rolling in literally as we walked toward the cliffs. By the time we reached them, they were completely socked in.
Here’s what we were supposed to see:
Here’s what we saw:
We did get a nice picture of our youngest with a cow, which she was quite happy about. 🙂
Nonetheless, we loved it — awe-inspiring and totally worth the trip, fog or not. We walked the entire length of the cliffs, rain pouring down, joined by plenty of other equally determined tourists. The kids were excited by the Harry Potter/Dumbledore connection. Meanwhile, I marveled at how close some people were willing to venture toward the edge. Yikes. One false move, and it’s all over.
Our second trip to the neighborhood pub/B&B finder yielded contact with our host and the kind of directions we give in the rural South of the USA (“Take the road by the big oak tree, go up yonder until you see a red barn. Count 40 fence posts on your right and take the middle fork on your left. You’ll see the driveway just past the big patch of kudzu.”) The B&B directions were less specific than that, even, but we thought we had found it until my husband was told that, no, the living room he had let himself into was not the lobby of a B&B. Oops.
We finally pulled up to the right place. The marvelous, older couple who owned it must have thought they’d been invaded by bodysnatchers when we piled out of the car. By now it was about 8 pm. The kids were fried (from all of the above). My husband was fried (from the driving). And I was fried (from the mediating). By now our late lunch had worn off, so we dumped our luggage and set off to find some dinner. Our oldest daughter begged off and asked us to bring something back. Still without phones and GPS, we got verbal directions from our host (again, country style – and why? Because it turns out the area is so rural there are no street addresses – Wow!) to a fast-food place about 20 minutes away that would hopefully still be open.
Two hours later, completely frazzled and having still not eaten, we finally pulled back up to the B&B.
To make a long story short, we had gotten lost. And then lost again. And then lost again. And then…
You don’t realize what a crutch smartphones and GPS have become until you don’t have them. Of course GPS doesn’t work very well when THERE IS NO ADDRESS TO ENTER!
During our hapless grand tour of the countryside in the pouring rain and darkness, we had managed to happen across a large superstore to buy groceries. Our patient hosts turned their kitchen over to us, where we spread out a random assortment of food and devoured it before collapsing into bed.
Up Next: A Change of Plan