Assignment: Trip to Ireland for seven days. Taking in Kerry to Dublin and points in between. Result: Great craic, as the locals would say.
Monday morning I depart Shannon Airport after usual haggling over rental car insurance coverage etc. Like many Americans I love Ireland but I'm nervous about the left-hand drive.
I did not help my cause by approaching the car (a French-made Renault, automatic) from the right side out of force of habit and the rental car attendant looks bemused.
The sign outside Shannon Airport says “Conduire á Gauche” and Google translate tells me that it means to drive on the left. A French car, a French sign, Oh là là!
Also signs in Irish and English. Excellent
First roundabout. Give way to traffic on right. Okay so far, until big truck coming through honks horn to warn me to stay back, almost wet myself.
By the time I leave, I’m a roundabout expert, though.
The distance to Killarney and everywhere else is given in kilometers, and I spend much of my week dividing by eight and multiplying by five to get mileage.
I come across some old mileage signposts and treasure them.
The highways (or motorways as they're called here) are great, no problem, well signposted, easy to drive, it is when you get off on side roads that problems can start.
A few Irish drivers keep very close proximity to the vehicle in front. One guy on my tail so tight I can smell his breath. Merde!
Overtaking on the small roads is the biggest problem as you inevitably pass in the oncoming lane and there’s a bend up ahead where a car may or may not suddenly materialize from. Every time I pass successfully I exhale with a huge “phew.”
I make a habit to stop for directions. Great “craic” as they say. “You’re not from around here then” - Well, no why, would I ask for directions then? “You’ll be following that road ahead that you can’t see yet off to the right ... Turn left at the chemist shop and then right by the pub.” Wonderful!
I feel like writing a book on Irish directions. Darn French again, I can’t find how to open my gas tank as the manual seems to be in French.
A friendly Kerry gas station owner helps me out. “Yerrah that car is too smart for its own good.”
Love it. That’s exactly what I’d been thinking as I tried to find radio knob etc.
I have no idea how much gas costs as it is all in liters but Irish cars are amazing on mileag
I pull into B&B in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. The owner sends her daughter outside to see what kind of car I have. Interesting.
Apparently, I went through some kind of secret toll on the M50 in Dublin. A sign warns me to pay within 24 hours or be beheaded or something like that. No idea.
The bus lanes confuse the hell out of me in Dublin, but manage okay, eventually. I’ll stay out of them in rush hour, I think.
Parking in Dublin is like trying to park in Manhattan except they clamp not just ticket. Outside Dublin is much more relaxed.
Finally, seven days over, spick and span car back in Shannon terminal. Au Revoir Ireland.
Driving in Ireland is a piece of gateaux as my French friends at Renault would say.
*Originally published in Aug 2014.