Alone together, Heinie and I enjoyed our first day-and-a-half in Ireland -- faulenzen, flanieren, fotografieren, schmausen, trinken, "people-watchen," schlafen, etc.: all the leisurely activities in which we normally engage while on Urlaub.
After traveling over 48 hours with cancelled flights and related hassles, our friends Edie and Michael arrived with their rental car, our transportation for the next five days. Quite miraculously and without incident, Edie did the driving on the "other side" of the road. As an initiation, the two went back and forth from the airport after another delayed flight, landing in Shannon exhausted, looking for the B&B we all shared for over an hour until they finally located it and tucked in. Thankfully, a good night's sleep and waking up to the beauty of Ireland in a comfortable bed, a hot cup of tea, and a hearty meal can make any problems dissolve, and the two seemed very happy to be in Europe. We were happy to see them as well.
The utterly awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher, shot from the non-touristy side (photo by KS)
After enjoying another hearty, home-cooked breakfast at the B&B, we all excitedly agreed that we would see the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland's most-visited natural attraction. Because our temporary landlady gave us specific instructions on how to see the cliffs like locals, our plan for the day was now much more appealing. We all listened intently so as not to make a wrong turn when we got out onto the road, and I even took notes.
First we needed some cash for our day. On the way to the cliffs, Google Maps led us to an ATM in the charming town of Ennis. It was only 20 km away, but seemingly much farther in driving time. Europe may seem small, but one should never underestimate distances on the map. Living in Germany, I know that what appears to be a quick jaunt ends up taking longer than expected due to winding (and beautiful) country roads that jog and jolt through old villages, oftentimes one lane at a time because of parked cars, tractors, or bicyclists. Taking the Autobahn may not be that much faster, because of Baustellen, Umleitungen, and longer stretches that take you further out of the way than you originally planned.
Later we found out there was an ATM right up the road from our place of lodging, and we could have asked our Irish landlady Dawn about where to get cash as well as how to get to the Cliffs, but never mind that now. There was lots of traffic in downtown Ennis, where we were told by the Smartphone to go (of course, there couldn't be ATM on the outskirts anywhere).
No matter, Edie's driving was to be admired. I'd ridden with her back in the States after one or two margaritas, and she is very adept no matter what state of mind. She drives like me -- a quick thinker, she's more reckless than rule-following (but it always works), and she doesn't waste time. When faced with the mounting number of cars and the stress of the situation of locating an unknown place in a foreign country, Edie pulled into an empty space bordering a construction zone. It turns out the workers (like every Irish person we encountered) were friendly -- and fortunately kind enough not to call the police and have our car towed.
Pulling out my bank card, I jumped from the car and made a dash for some cash. While at it and thinking the other three would be searching for a legal parking space, I Google-mapped the closest electronics store, walked quickly to that location down the old Ennis street and bought two car chargers, all within 10 minutes. When I got back to the car, which was still parked illegally, Edie was gone to change some money. We had not yet been towed, threatened, or looked askance upon, and the construction workers were hard at it. When Edie got back to the car, we all had cash in our pockets, which made us all the more happy. Now we also had two different chargers for our GPS-providing smartphones, which would take turns guiding us through the Irish countryside.
Looking out over the water above the town of Lahinch (photo by KS)
I can't imagine how our Vorgänger ever made due with paper maps or roadside signs. I don't remember it being that easy myself when I drove somewhere new, and for this reason I am grateful for modern technology, though this time that technology did take us 20 minutes out of the way, just for cash.
Proceeding northward, we were less than 10 km from the Cliffs of Moher now. We stopped first in the small town of Lahinch for a break from driving -- about another 30 minutes from Ennis -- and to visit a pub. That would be Michael's first beer in the country of his forefathers, and a place for us ladies to wee. First, however, we encountered a funeral. I hoped all those people wouldn't end up in our same pub, because we were thirsty and needed a break! Oh that beer tasted good, and no funeral-goers entered the pub until later, if then.
After our beer, we made one or two wrong turns while out there driving among the Irish farms and fields and had to call Dawn back "home" at the B&B. Her directions had been accurate; we simply made the wrong turn somewhere, entirely possible with one driver and three navigators. Backtracking, we rediscovered a sign guiding us to a small parking lot by a large farmhouse. Turning in and paying 2 euros, we also got the key to a portapotty on-site. It was complete with a poem for reading while sitting. I happened to have my camera with me. The Irish are humorous.
Needless to say, the Cliffs of Moher are amazing. We walked through alternating sideways-blowing rain and wind-wrapped sunshine on old cattle paths through mud and grass and over rock walls to reach a coastal pathway high above the sea. This walking route could have led us all the way to the tourist entrance for the Cliffs, but that would have taken hours. I believe the weather and the need to be in a warm pub was more endearing than a long, cold walk on a not-so-nice Irish day, so we stayed out long enough to soak in the views and returned to the car for a drive back home.
Encounter the lucky cattle who live near the Cliffs of Moher year-round. (photo by KS)
It was time for more drink and more to eat, and we wanted to show Edie and Michael the hospitality experienced the night before by the Durty Nelly's crew. After all, one shouldn't exert oneself too much on vacation; besides, we were hungry. More wild Ireland was scheduled for the coming days, when we would head for the town of Dingle and the notorious Slea Head Drive, which almost sent one of us over the cliff.
Wörterbuch / Dictionary
(die) Baustelle - construction zone (die Baustellen, plural)
faulenzen - be lazy
flanieren - to stroll
fotografieren - to take pictures, photographs
schlafen - sleep
schmausen - to eat well, enjoy eating (while on vacation)
trinken - to drink
(die) Umleitung - detour (die Umleitungen, plural)
(der) Urlaub - vacation
(die) Vorgänger - predecessors