Two friends of mine are headed on a wee vacation to O’Land o’ Ireland, home of the pint, Angela’s Ashes, Celtics, Aran sweaters and shamrocks. I was lucky (Irish luck?) enough to have taken a similar vacation a few years ago with a friend of mine, over St. Patrick’s Day, partially-paid by my company. She and I rented a giant Ford Galaxy that seated eight, since it was the only rental car available with automatic transmission, and we set off from Kinsale (photo, below) north to Galway (photo right). In this entry, I will create a Do and Don’t separation for Ireland.
DO realize that this trip is usually best taken with a significant other, due to its country cuteness, cozy bed & breakfasts and tranquilizing scenery. DO realize that if you’re not traveling with a significant other and you’re both under 50 years old, you may get bored quickly. Keep driving along.
DO rent an automatic transmission car, unless you are ambidextrous and can drive stick-shift with your opposite hand (unless you’re English or Japanese, in which please drive as you ordinarily do). Remember that the Irish are one of the cultures who drive on the left.
DO buy at least one Aran sweater.
DO visit the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula. Do drive it yourself so you can decide your schedule and whether you want to get off or stay on the road. Don’t bother with the bus tours which will just tell you “here is something pretty – now get off and take a picture of it” unless you plan to be drunk at lunch and can’t continue to drive.
DO admire the scenery at Dingle: as I wrote in an email to a friend, “one point there was nothing but waves thrashing in slow-motion against black rocks in the blue-purple, almost amethyst, ocean, and then if you look to the right was a continuum of green hills dotted with puffy white sheep that looked like clouds.” (I was inspired by all the literature in Ireland. I don’t ordinarily write such florally emails to my friends).
DO note the wealth of literary types and writers from Ireland, and visit the Literary Museum in Listowel. It only takes an hour and pays tribute to the various famous Irish writers.
DO drive through the Burren (limestone-covered hills) to Galway.
DO hop the ferry over to Aran Islands and rent bikes to cycle around.
DO visit the Blarney Castle (photo, above). In the interest of H1N1, DO NOT kiss the Blarney Stone. You will not get bad luck (but you might get the flu).
DO check out the city of Cork which has lots of interesting restaurants (including some very tasty Indian food) and shops.
DO keep in mind that “Mna” means “women” and “Fir” means “men” when trying to choose a restroom in Gaelic.
DO try to squeeze in a quick train trip to Dublin. A lot of people skip this because they want to just focus on the western part of Ireland. The western part, to re-emphasize, is kind of slow if you’re a faster-paced and young traveler. Dublin is the main city in Ireland and would be a good complement to the rest of the country. I hear the literary tour is worth it.
below: house on Aran Islands.