We at Next Exit Travel are curious about local cuisine. For us, this means stopping at various supermarkets and gas station mini-marts to sample local delicacies. We seek to experience the potato in all forms. In fact, that really should be our mission statement.
Several of the gas station mini-marts offered fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as bread baked fresh on the premises. But you all know what bread looks like and snack food packaging is so much more fun. We also found out there is an amusement park devoted to fried potato products – Tayto Park! It was closed for the winter, but it gives us an excuse to go back.
Ireland was really WPT’s trip. I had a few places I wanted to see, but it was really more about fulfilling a promise I made him several years ago. So expect more in-depth posts from him and some nonsense from me. Starting now…
I expected to drive on the left-side of narrow roads. I had driven on the left before, but that was 15 years ago. What I didn’t expect was to find the drivers in Ireland to be the most polite I’ve ever encountered. I’m used to driving in one of the most aggressive regions in the US. The drivers in Ireland were such a pleasant surprise. Slower cars and trucks pulled over to let faster traffic pass, people took turns merging, and there was friendly waving and a lack of beeping. I shed my East Coast skin of speed and rage and cautiously wound my way around the island.
Much like people ask, “Did that tattoo on your foot hurt?” and my response is generally, “Why, yes, it did. Quite a lot.” People similarly ask about driving in Ireland. The narrow, often dark and rainy, winding roads were very challenging. In fact, after driving all day I was completely spent. I was usually rewarded with scotch and a hot bath for my efforts. I should also mention the black ice. Yeah, that was unexpected. I deserved a badge of some kind for dealing with several miles of that shit and not a scratch on the car or any of us. Ultimately, after 1829km, I could hit a roundabout at speed and merge like a pro.
We brought several maps with us, but they were useless at times. Actual street names are something of a secret handshake known only to locals and postal carriers. They change block-to-block and I saw one instance where different sides of the same street were known by different names. WPT deserves a badge for navigating.
Oatmeal tastes better when you call it porridge.
3) SELFIE STICKS
People really use selfie sticks. This is weird. We saw one guy with a selfie stick and iPad at the Giant’s Causeway. He appeared to be having a great time with himself.
4) THIS DISPENSER IN A HOTEL TOILET
5) MY BRAIN EMPTIED
Those of you who know me in real life know that my attention is all over the place. I tend to have 2-3 trains of thought going at any given time. Not so in Ireland. I had to concentrate fully while driving. The usual din of brain chatter was quelled. I focused like I hadn’t focused in years (maybe decades). I was thrilled to see it was still possible. An odd side-effect was that my brain was empty and quiet at night. I actually slept. It was amazing.
6) THE QUIET MAN
In the village of Cong there’s not only a statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, there’s a museum and a gift shop devoted to The Quiet Man. You may want to take a moment and sit on the bench devoted to the movie and reflect on that.
7) EIGHT-YEAR-OLDS IN BARS
People are downright pleased to see an 8-year-old in a bar, requesting songs, at 10pm on a Tuesday night. The 8-year-old was ours.
I loved the child-friendly attitude and that people were so nice to our son.
8) JOHN DENVER
Based on live music we heard, John Denver is very popular in Ireland. Or maybe just the song Country Roads.
9) PICKLED ONION CRISPS
Simply undeniably delicious.
For unknown reasons I expected the air to be clean and smell of damp earth and the ocean. Instead it often smelled smoky from all of the wood and peat burning hearths. It was also colder than usual.
There is a constant struggle between the permeating damp and dry heat. The greatest casualties in this war appear to be paint and hair.