Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Day 3 – Coast To Coast To Coast

After another hard night’s sleep (up and down for Trish, very deep for Harold), we got up, had breakfast, and pondered out plan for the day. We thought about going back to Dublin to do the castle, but after the mad dash to the train station last night, Trish’s blisters were pretty bad so we decided to get in the car and head cross-island to County Galway. That had been, after all, the nearly unanimous recommendation of the half-dozen folks we accosted on the street or in the pubs (furthering the reputation of Americans as being royal pains-in-the-ass.). We spoke to Katie, and reserved a room for Sunday, figuring that staying in Dublin Sunday night would be good since our plane left for Germany at 7:15 a.m. so we had to be at the airport at oh-god-it’s-too-frigging-early.
We had no idea where we were going IN Galway at that point, we just jumped in the car and trusted that Jill-Jill would get us there. That was a mixed blessing….we had a very confused time getting away from Dublin, eventually driving through downtown Dublin (not Harold’s favorite part of the drive) to get away. (We discovered a couple of days later that the GPS was set to avoid toll roads…so it never took us to the major morotways which would have halved the travel time….another sigh. :) )

We stopped in a little village named Naas (which we thought was "Nahs" and made us think of Allen Nause, but which turned out to be "Nays", so sorry Allen) and made some phone calls to find a B&B to sleep in somewhere in or near Galway. We lucked out and got the first one we called, our first choice, the Ballykine House, a 200+ years old lodge near a lake. While we were in Naas, we stopped in a lovely little coffee shop called the Berry & Coffee and had coffee and muffin for me, coffee and scone for Harold, then headed out of town.

We had time to kill, we thought, since it was 11ish and our hostess Mrs. Lambe (later learned her first name was Ann) was going to be spending the day with her grandchildren and wasn’t going to be back to the B&B before 6pm. I had some weird kind of inspiration while we were driving and talked Harold into going to Waterford. Mind you, I didn’t look at a map during this ill-advised fit of travel fever, so didn’t really realize that by going to Waterford, we were heading all the way to the south coast of Ireland, which was going to add 3 or 4 hours to the trip to Galway. Never let it be said that common sense got in the way of my traveling bug. (ok, horrible mixed metaphor there.) We just saw a sign that said "Waterford" and headed that direction. (How does Harold put up with me???) On the way south to Waterford, we passed through dozens of small Irish burgs and even more ancient ruins, historical monuments and churches, etc. We kept saying that we’d stop for pictures when we came back that way (which of course never happened), and I wanted to get to Waterford before they closed. (Well, before the crystal factory closed. They probably don’t close the town, Harold is pointing out, but…..One of the things we discovered early is that you can NEVER count on anything being open the same kind of hours they would be at home. "Why, of course, dear, Thursday is Aunt Millie’s second-cousin’s grandson’s confirmation party so the monument is closed…")

About an hour or so outside Waterford, outside Carlow on the N-9 (basically a state highway) we ran into a complete traffic stoppage. A police officer directed us away from the entrance into town, onto a country road alongside the local landfill. We went about a quarter mile up the road and then stopped again… for about a half-hour. Eventually some workers from the Conway Council came up the road to tell us that some of the heavy trucks the police officer had sent up the road had had an accident, and we were going to have to be diverted again ("fookin’ intelligent," said the Irish gent ahead of us. "Sendin’ heevy equipment oop a countreh road… fookin’ brilliant.") After another half hour of waiting, the nice guy in the car ahead of us offered to lead us out in a different direction toward Waterford, where they were also headed. Long story short (HA!), we finally made it to Waterford. By then we were not really in the mood to take the long factory tour, so we walked around a bit, picked up a few little gifty things, and asked the cashier, Inis (pronounced Ainish) where a good local place would be to get some dinner. She wrote out some directions, raved about this place Uluru (we thought it an odd name for an Irish place) and sent us on our way.
Half an hour later we ended up at, believe it or not, an Irish version of Outback Steakhouse. Not what we had in mind at all, it was clear that it was a pickup bar, complete with the desperate looking early-30s Irish ladies in their pumps and jeans drinking American beer (Coors light and Miller! Ack!) with ice. Some things are the same the world around, it seems. Anyway, it SUCKED. Harold had "lasagna" (a great Australian dish, don'tcha know) which was a step down from Hamburger Helper, and chips ("steak fries" to you Americans). I had some batter fried cod, which nearly dissolved in a greasy slime when I added vinegar. (My little travel note was "Sucked…only the Guinness was good. Nuff said.)

We headed down the road, passing through Thomastown, a lovely village that really should have had photos taken…sigh….but the roads were starting to get really scary as the sun went down. Whose bright idea was it to drive directly into the setting sun on roads ¾ of a car’s width wide and on the left side of the road to boot? Which moron was that? Oh, yeah….me. Sigh again.

Not much more to say about the drive, the usual dark and spooky when oncoming traffic bore down on those narrow roads, but we did note that the frequency of the stone walls around the various fields increased massively. We stopped for gas (petrol, at 1.15 Euros a LITRE, for God’s sake), paid 11.78 E (about 15 dollars) for 10 litres, about 2.5 gallons. We did stop and call Mrs. Lambe a couple of times, but she had another guest who wasn’t arriving until midnight, so it was no problem that we were going to be rolling in between 9:30 and 10:30.

Did I mention that we didn’t have directions to the B&B? The B&B book listed two or three city or county names, no address, no directions other than a route number. AARGHH!!!! Now we had found the B&B in Lusk without an address, but it was SO dark in rural County Galway that I suspected we’d not be quite so lucky, even with Jill’s having gotten us through various detours, accidents, wrong turns, etc.

We made it to a little village called Cong (who expects that name in Ireland? I didn’t, but then I can be a moron, already proven by the Waterford detour) around 10:30, and decided we’d better give the nice lady a call and find out how to get to the B&B. It turned out we were only 5-6 minutes away, and thank goodness we found it ok, since Ireland is notorious for no house numbers, often no street names, usually no street signs. That’s bad enough during daylight on a wide street but terrifying at night in serious countryside where a single light shines for miles in the stygian blackness, in the rare area where the light isn’t behind the hill….

It was about 11 when we got in. Thankfully, Mrs. Lambe was more than cordial even at that late hour. She offered us tea and bannana bread, didn’t want to fuss with "checking in," and showed us right up to our room.

The room was downright palatial, in fact. The Hillview house, our previous B&B, had been a bit like a dormitory; nice enough, but a bit spare. Ballykine House, by contrast, was nothing but class. A large room with a wonderfully appointed bed, lovely furnishings, the works. We even had our own private bathroom up the hall. It was to die for… and we were very happy after our long drive to tuck into bed and enjoy it.