Dublin or Paris, Paris or Dublin? For me, not such a dilemma, the choice was clear, a chance to visit Ireland at last, the country of my not so distant ancestors won hands down. Not so for my partner. The lure of that mystical shopper’s paradise, Paris, with its famous sites, landmarks, the sound of French spoken in the air, oo la la, and oh, did I mention shopping? No contest for her. Our airfare package included a side trip to any European destination from London so hence the debate. We were visiting my partner’s daughter in London and the girls just assumed Paris would be the only option. Not for me, I just couldn’t miss this opportunity to visit Ireland and for once the little rebel stuck to his guns so the girls are off to Paris and I’m off to Dublin.
For reasons that escape the clutches of this old memory, we only had four days to complete our little adventure and I lost much of my first day waiting for the only flight to Dublin I could get on which didn’t leave until mid-afternoon. What could I fit in of Ireland in two days? Ahh, let’s use the waiting day to find the Irish tourism office in London to see what might be possible. They adjust my incorrect mental scale of Ireland by advising that I could drive to and from Cork in one day and just out of Cork is Blarney Castle. What could be a more fitting way to connect with the heart of Ireland than to kiss the Blarney stone? I now have a plan, fly to Dublin on the first day, a leisurely drive to Cork on the second day, kiss the Blarney stone and a leisurely drive back to Dublin on the third, fly back to London early on the fourth day. Sounds like the stuff of folklore, a real flying tourist visit.
As I walked through the airport after landing in Dublin I had this really strong sense of coming home although this was my first visit to Ireland or the first that I was aware of, at least in this lifetime. I headed for the only car hire booth that didn’t have a queue, oh yes I had really planned this trip out well, not even a pre-booking for the critical element in accomplishing this rapid tour, a car. Again this sense of warm familiarity washes over me in just talking to the very helpful lady at the car hire company. Did I have a place to stay booked? Of course not and it is now coming up to 5-ish and getting dark outside. Well, says the car lady, I know a lady who runs a B&B, let me call her and see. As I said the car lady was very helpful and returns with Ah yes, she says, Doris has a room available and will have a cup of tea waiting for you. Now let me give you the directions and proceeds to write out the address and describes how to get there which seems to end with, you’ll see this big hotel on the right and you turn in there. So this is where Doris is I ask? I’m bemused because I thought Doris ran a small B&B. Ah no you just go in to the driveway and come back out. Why? Because you can’t turn right at the lights on Doris’ street intersection so you turn in there and then you can come back up to the lights and turn left. I had met my first example of brilliantly unbeatable Irish logic.
The next morning duly rested, refreshed, with a satisfyingly enormous Irish breakfast in my belly and a headful of detailed instructions on what I should see and where I should go from both Doris and the guys in the pub last night, I’m starting to think that all the Irish are born travel agents. I head south on my big adventure with the intention to absorb as much of the renowned beauty of Ireland as I can in the short time allotted. These are a pre-smart phone, Google Maps days and I am armed only with a simplistic, single page, an all-Ireland road map that came for guidance with the car. I head south with the hope that I can drive along the coast as far down as I can go and that involves taking just about every left turn choice I meet to try and get as close to this beautiful coast as I can. Now I find myself heading down quite a steep curving road with signposts to Rosslare which I can tell from the map is a harbour. But it becomes increasingly obvious that this is purely an entrance to a roll on – roll off ferry loading port which will take me to France after all if I continue. Oh the irony, my big adventure to Ireland ends with me arriving in France anyway. I am unable to turn around on this divided road and can only continue on with the fervent hope that I will be able to do another of the now-familiar Irish u-turns at the bottom. And so I did, headed back up the hill again and the Irish tour continues, with a large sigh of relief.
At about 4 pm I am traveling through heavily wooded country back roads with no sign of the coast and darkness already starting to descend. I come to the realisation that this might be time to admit defeat in my quest for the coast and get some assistance in finding my way back to the main highway that in hindsight is starting to look really attractive. The map and lack of any signposts collude to force the word LOST into my consciousness. Suddenly up ahead I see a little country house nestled in a small clearing and it even has advertising signs outside indicating that this might be a little country shop. Salvation I think.
I pull in beside another car parked outside just as a lady comes out of the shop with a bag of purchases. This is looking hopeful, at least the shop might be open. I enter and there peering over the top of the old wooden shop counter is this little grey-haired old lady with just one big buck tooth at the front of her mouth. I looked carefully for any large warts on her nose which would complete the cartoon witch appearance but failed to see any. “How can I help?” she asks. I start to explain with I’m lost and she cuts me off at that. “How could you be lost?” she asks. Finding this a strange response I start to explain how I was trying to follow the coast and am cut off in mid-sentence with “No, no, no, how could you be lost?” I am obviously not getting the gist of what she is trying to say so perhaps the direct route might be best. “What do you mean, how could I be lost?” To which she replies, “How could you be lost? You come from such a big country and this is such a small country, how could you be lost?” There it is again, that brilliantly unbeatable Irish logic. My Australian accent has given me away and I am stumped for a way to answer that so I just ask if she could help me find my way back to the highway. My dear old witchy shop lady then gives me very precise and detailed instructions which I follow to the letter and find myself at last back on the main highway and heading for Cork.
There is now a constant stream of traffic on the other side of the road which I gather from listening to the car radio is the post-workday commuter traffic from Cork. There are also reports of very heavy congestion also going into Cork itself and I am starting to get a little concerned about finding somewhere to stay for the night. The regret about the incredible lack of planning on my part is starting to nag at me. Just then as I come around a sweeping right-hand bend a breathtaking vista of a bay of water reveals itself. The coast at last and I am going to circumnavigate this whole bay by following on the road ahead. In the distance across the bay, I see a sizeable village which may offer some hope of an available B&B for this tiring traveller and perhaps avoid being stuck in the Cork rush hour traffic which is completely incongruent with the free-flowing mood I am in. The signposts indicate that this is the town of Youghal which I learn later is pronounced “youll” like the abbreviated you will, you’ll. Let me find a room with a view in Youghal, which I did, and as we might say in Australia, you’ll do, Youghal.
** Stace says: This is my day 2 assignment as part of the Writing 101 course run by WordPress. The prompt was “A room with a view” and the twist, be descriptive.
*** St Patricks Day 2021 – Stace says: The link to Australia got even closer when a friend mentioned: “That place Youghal (pronounced ya-all) is where my West Indian ancestor was tried as a convict and sent to Sydney in 1837. I have his court transcript. Apparently that’s where all the boats left from those docks”