My Cyber Buds should take a vacation in Ireland. As I may have mentioned before, I’m not big on vacations but my wife is, which is one of the reasons I married her. Leah forces me to travel to places I wouldn’t go otherwise, like Ireland. In spite of my lack of enthusiasm for vacations I recommend that all of you cyber buds of my mine take a vacation in Ireland. It’s a foreign country, sure, but not foreign enough to make you feel overwhelmed or at any time lost. We spent our week in sourthern Ireland, flying into Shannon Airport and renting a cottage in Claire County. This map shows the area we covered.
Left is Right. When you jump in your Hertz rental in Ireland you’ll most likely open the passenger door, then walk around to the other side of the car since the steering wheel is on the right. Stick shifts are the norm in Ireland (automatics are rare and WAY more expensive to rent), and the stick is on the left. This could be tricky for the automatic-minded, but I was okay with it since my Honda Passport is a stick. There is one other thing to remember while behind the wheel, we drive on the left in Ireland. The mantra on pulling out on any street while on vacation in Ireland is “Left is right. Left is right.” One more rental item, they check your return meticulously in Ireland, so since driving conditions are a bit different in Ireland and US Credit Cards don’t cover most rental accident incidents in Europe (so we’ve been told), it’s a good idea to figure in the daily car insurance fee when renting in Ireland. As a side point, there are a lot of smart looking compact cars in Ireland not available in the US. Here was our rental, a Peugeot model I’ve not seen before.
Currency Exchange. The dollar was worth .56 of a Euro. That put a damper on buying a lot of stuff with abandon while in Ireland, but hey, vacations are like Christmas. We won’t worry about the effects of the exchange rate until next month’s credit card statements arrive. One thing for sure, my friends at the Irish IT firm I did work for recently got a heckuva good deal on my normal hourly rate. The Dollar-Euro exchange rate can work to both party’s advantage in doing freelance work for European companies though, and I’ll be keeping that in mind for the future.
The Castle Tour 2008. Our American History books cover little more than 200 years, but recorded Irish history goes back many hundreds of years. You get an appreciation for that pretty quickly in Ireland. Here’s Bunratty Castle, restored in the 1950’s, part of a folk park with other historical Irish structures. Blarney Castle is said to be the best preserved castle in Ireland, giving you a great sense of being there. Dunguaire Castle is worth a stop. Here’s Knappogue Castle and the drive to the castle. Here’s Craggaunowen Castle, also worth visiting. We happened upon several other historic locations as well, including Quin Abbey, Thoor Ballylee, home of poet William Butler Yeats, and forts like Charles Fort built in the 1670’s. The preserved castles are cool, but what really strikes you about the history of Ireland are the many “backyard” castles or castle remnants, hundreds of years old, just sitting there like this one.
Guinness is Good For You, like this old sign says. Here’s a pint freshly poured sitting on a window sill outside a village pub in the Bunratty Castle folk park. The Guinness specialty store is a common site in tourist locations. I did my part by purchasing a sweet Guinness luggage tag.
More on the fun driving in Ireland. Seriously. Ireland is a great country to drive in. Irish drivers are very good drivers. They have to be. Most of the roads in Ireland are barely what we would classify as single lane wide and you are often pulling over or backing up to make room for a car coming in the other direction. Here’s the road which ran by our cottage, very typical of the single lane two-way Irish road. Irish drivers also like to drive fast–on all road widths. One thing about Irish drivers I concluded while driving through Limerick at rush hour is that the Irish regard the smartest approach to driving as being courteous and to accommodate other drivers as a basic rule, whereas in the US we are masters of our route from points A to B and everyone else had better get the heck out of the way. The Irish also seem to love their roundabouts. I’m not a roundabout fan (more of an intersection man), but by the end of the week I saw the beauty in the Irish roundabout. They work because of the Irish philosophy of accommodation behind the wheel. We in America should probably stick to intersections though.
Weather, sky and and being offline. The cottage we booked through RCI was out in the country. Two things struck me about it, how quiet it was and how dark it was at night. At a souvenir shop I saw a postcard that was totally black and titled “Ireland at night.” That wasn’t far from the truth. We had a gray week, but fortunately very little rain. I saw a t-shirt depicting the four seasons in Ireland. Each square had rain falling on it. Funny. As for being offline, I was able to jump online once mid-week, but otherwise had no Internet access. It’s good to cut the cord sometimes to get a fresh perspective, or at least not dream about code and application logic for a change.
The full Ireland April 2008 Photo Album is located here.