Friday was our 4th full day in Ireland and it was time to pick-up our rental car. Deciding where to get the car consumed more than a few hours of my pre-trip planning. The idea of learning to drive from the opposite side of the car on the opposite side of the road inside the city terrified me but the next rental location was Cork. The train to Cork was an option, but there was so much to see along the way. What if we missed something?
After studying Google maps of the area around the car rental office, referencing train schedules, and reading about sites along our potential driving routes, I decided to risk it and get the car in Dublin…as close to the highway out of town as possible.
We got an early start hoping to miss any rush hour traffic. Picking up the car was a breeze and I took the first shift driving. I settled in, learning where all the controls were and taking lots of deep breaths to help calm my anxious nerves. Thankfully I’d been able to reserve an automatic transmission. Learning to shift and clutch with the wrong hand and foot was too much for my brain.
The plan was to get breakfast at the edge of the city, but we found ourselves on the Motorway before we knew it. Tricia used the car’s GPS, which we named Siobhan, to locate a nearby restaurant. I dutifully followed Siobhan’s prompts, exited the Motorway, went in a large loop and ended up back on the Motorway with the restaurant never coming into sight.
By this time we were both desperate for coffee and were overjoyed at the site of a gas station right on the Motorway. We rolled into the parking lot and went inside to find a large selections of pastries and coffee. Ahh, that’s better. Now we were ready to start our adventure, knowing only that our end point for the night would be in Killarney.
We passed a sign for Kilkenny Castle and debated exiting. Tricia went online to see how far away it was and the internet said only 30 minutes. We missed the exit but decided if there was anything else less than an hour off the highway, we would go explore. A few miles down the road there was another exist for the castle so off we went.
The large and comfortable Motorway soon gave way to a TINY, how do two cars drive down this, lane. (videos to come later) When I was learning to drive, my mother always worried I would hit the mailboxes on the side of the road (on the passenger side of the road), while I felt like I was driving down the middle of the road. Well, in Ireland, I also felt like I was driving down the middle of the road, but Tricia assured me I was clinging to the her side of the road and their wasn’t any shoulder, but rather stone walls or thick hedges of bushes.
We made it into Kilkenny without crashing the car or killing each other, then the task of finding a car park sent us around in a bit of a circle. Finally, we parked and I was able to catch my breath. Kilkenny is a charming town, I wish we’d had more time to spend in the shops and just walking around soaking up the atmosphere. The opening lines of the “Belle” song from Beauty & the Beast kept running through both of our minds and this quickly became our theme as we entered another precious village.
The castle was a short walk from the car park and when we entered the courtyard, we were awed by everything, including the snow flurries that were floating around. Staff members were on hand in a couple of the rooms and we learned one of the wall coverings had been recreated from an original scrap that had been found in nearly perfect condition behind one of the baseboards.
After dreaming about living in the castle, we wandered back to the car, stopping at The Sweater Shop, where a huge sale was going on and Tricia purchased more woolen goods than anyone within a hundred mile radius of the Florida border could ever need. The lovely shopkeeper even arranged to have it shipped home, for free! This could make our trip a lot more expensive than anticipated.
Back on the road, Tricia took the wheel, and as a left-hander, she found it more natural to be on the opposite side. Our next stop was the Rock of Cashel, a place I read about years ago in the Lion of Ireland. The sun was sinking toward the western horizon, silhouetting the church in the distance ahead of us. The car park was rather empty when we arrived at 4:25 pm. The website listed 4:30 pm as the closing time, but I held out hope that we could pop in for at least a few minutes.
The walk up to the entrance was steep, but a strong wind sweeping downhill against us made it grueling work. A couple reached the door a minute before us and I saw them try to enter, only to find it locked. My heart sank but we marched on. Upon reaching the top of the hill, we learned the church had closed early due to the high winds. We wandered around the exterior, looking down on the town below and up to the spires rising above the wall surrounding the church yard.
When we returned to the car, Tricia checked her email to get the address for the Bed & Breakfast we were staying in for the next two days, only to learn we had been relocated. The owner of the original B & B, a quaint place we’d been looking forward to, had emailed to say they had a water leak and one of the neighbors had agreed to take us in. The new address was provided and we entered it into the GPS.
We’d hoped to make it to Killarney before dark, but the sun seemed intent on hiding for the night and scattered clouds grew more dense as we pushed south. Shortly after 6:00 pm we rolled into Killarney and began searching for the new B & B. Fortunately, it was located on the outskirts of town so we didn’t have to navigate too much and we found it with less trouble than I’d anticipated. We even managed to get into the tiny parking area without hitting anything. The owner provided some dining recommendations and we set off on foot after we dropped off our bags.
Kayne’s Bar and Brasserie was the first place we reached and with the temperature dropping and a misty rain beginning, we ducked inside. I don’t remember what Tricia ate, but my salmon with orzo was amazing.
We had survived our first day driving and Tricia was feeling pretty confident behind the wheel. I was looking forward to the morning when we would have an experience I’d been looking forward to for months.