The story of Ireland starts back in Iceland, as my last night there I realized that to fly from London to Dublin the next morning, Ryanair was going to require a physical boarding pass. No exceptions, and they charged 50 euros to print one at the airport. This was a bit of a problem because I was bopping around Iceland in a tiny car that didn’t come with a trunk or a printer. So I looked up the nearest Internet Café in Reykjavik that was still open, and Google Maps swiftly directed me to some other place entirely that wasn’t that at all. After walking around in the frigid wind for a while and cursing the fact that I had skin, I saw the right place way down the block on the other side of the street, and proceeded to drive there in reverse because it was a one-way street the other way.

Inside, the place was full of teenagers eating pizza and playing some kind of multi-player game or hacking Target’s servers or whatever they were doing. I paid for ten minutes of time to get into my email and print out the boarding passes for me and my brother. Easy peasy. Only when I went to log into Gmail it wouldn’t let me in because I had typed a bunch of nonsense with the Icelandic keyboard. Oh crap. Eventually I outsmarted all the æ and Þ and ðs to get my address typed in, only there was no @ on the keyboard.

“Goddammit Iceland, quit being cute and give me an @ symbol!” I may have said out loud as my time ticked away to nothing. Thankfully the girl working there had absolutely nothing else to do and she helped me not print anything at all because their printers weren’t connected to anything. Eventually we wished up a connection out of faerie magic and a giant teddy bear came out of the back room with my prints.

When I’d left Minneapolis for Iceland, I’d been running very late for the airport as usual. But thankfully the Lyft driver who picked me up was completely insane, and he made the 25 minute drive in 11 minutes. The entire way, while zipping in and out of tiny pockets in the traffic, slamming on the brakes, cutting cars off, driving on the shoulder, etcetera, we carried on a disorientingly calm conversation, during which he explained how he’d learned to drive by watching the lions while he was on safari in Africa.

The lions, you see, don’t seek out the slowest wildebeest or gazelle or whatever the hell lions eat. They target the one that’s not paying attention. The one that, instead of fighting back when the lion pounces, will say “Guys? What are we- Where’s everyone-OH DAMMIT.” This reduces the odds of the lion getting a horn in the butt or whatever. My driver applied this strategy to driving people to the airport, scanning the other drivers’ faces for the ones who were eating chips or filling out their divorce paperwork or shaving their legs, and these were the drivers he would ruthlessly cut off, usurping their lane space with pride.

Anyway, aside from just wanting to tell that lion story, I bring up the driver because this guy just could not get that I was going to Iceland. About the fourth time I told him, he said “OH! Ireland! Yes my friend. Ireland is lovely.” “Actually I’m going to Iceland.” “Yes, yes. Get some green beer for me my friend.” Eventually I stopped correcting him because who cares, I was going to Ireland eventually anyway.

Landing in London from Iceland was kind of a big deal because I was entering the EU. Yeah, I didn’t know Iceland wasn’t part of the EU either. So this was the big security checkpoint keeping heathens out of the European Union and protecting all their precious chocolates and marmite and what have you. I’d had to fill out a form on the plane that I don’t think had changed since the days of the Titanic, and then was funneled through Gatwick into the “Assholes Who Don’t Even Have an EU Passport” line. All the Europeans got to breeze through, getting high-fives from the security guards, while all of us Americans and one Icelandic person got the stink-eye from British Immigration officers like we were there to steal their toast.

I quickly learned that the purpose of immigration screening is to make sure you aren’t going to stay in their country and steal their jobs. I’d mistakenly assumed that it was to make sure I wasn’t Osama Bin O’Donnell or Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fat lady suit. But when you talk to the officers, it’s clear they just want to make sure you’ll be leaving very soon. Iceland, England, France, it was all the same. Welcome, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Okay.

My brother Aster met me in the terminal and we hopped on our Ryanair flight to Dublin. If you’re not familiar, Ryanair is basically the Spirit Airlines of Europe. If you’re unfamiliar with Spirit Airlines, you lucky bastard, it’s like taking a bus that flies. They have the cheapest tickets, but absolutely everything costs extra, including dignity.

Ryanair wanted to charge me 50 euros each way (more than doubling the ticket price) to carry anything larger than a manila folder onto the plane, so I’d left my suitcase with a service at Gatwick and flew to Ireland carrying a tiny backpack stuffed with underwear. On the flight, stewardesses came up and down the aisles selling all kinds of random shit, including some sort of gambling tickets. It seemed like the wager was whether or not we’d make it to Dublin. When we landed safely, there was a palpable sense of “Woohoo! This must be my lucky day!” on the plane. Happy day.

Right off the bat it was immediately clear that the Irish are some of the friendliest people in the world. Without exception everyone was completely awesome to us. Part of me wanted to believe that since my brother and I are both half Irish, this was some communal sense of “Welcome home,” but in reality I think they’re probably that nice to everybody. Going through immigration control was a breeze, I’m not sure they even asked when we were leaving. I told them we were staying in Ballylooby and either that was a weird detail no faker would be insane enough to make up or the guy didn’t want to admit he’d never heard of the place himself, but we breezed right through. The guy at the car rental counter was great, and the shuttle driver to the car lot was warm and funny and awesome.

This is where we enter the extremely bizarre world of driving in Ireland. Before the trip, when I was going through the massive prep work of renting all the cars and setting up the AirBnBs and whatnot, I was struck by the strange fact that my Visa card would insure me (your US auto insurance is useless overseas) on any car I rented anywhere in the world except Ireland. Hmmm, why exclude Ireland? That seems like a dick move. I very quickly found out why exclude Ireland.

We were introduced to the second of the eight rental cars this trip would feature, the Nissan Note. You’ll notice a theme that you will never have heard of most of the cars we rented. It’s actually fairly unusual to be driving a brand you’ve heard of (most of the cars were Peugeots, Renaults, Citroens, Vauxhalls, Seats, Lancias, Skodas and Opels), but even when you are driving a Ford, Nissan, Toyota or a Kia, it’s usually a model you did not know existed. It boggled my mind to realize that these automakers must each have dozens and dozens of different models if they’re each unique to a region.

The Note was a fine little turd of a car, light on power and short on everything, but its most distinguishing features were the fact that the side mirror had all its coverings torn off and there were huge scrapes all the way up the side of the car. Keep in mind this was when we PICKED UP the car. The shuttle driver laughed and said “Yep, you get a freebie on that side.”

My mind flashed back to what I’d read about driving in Ireland. The rental car rate was extremely cheap (something like 6 euros a day) but you had to pay crazy amounts (closer to 40 euros per day) for comprehensive insurance, which absolutely everyone online said you should definitely get. Every travel forum I read, it didn’t seem like a single person had ever returned a car undamaged, most of them were missing side mirrors and hub caps at the very least. One person explained that their rental car had been hit three times while they were in Ireland. While it was parked.

As I examined the gouges up the left side of the car I remembered the advice I’d read that said the hardest thing about switching to driving on the left-hand side of the road (and sitting on the right-hand side of the car) is that you unconsciously drift away from the center of the lane while you’re driving, since you’re so used to seeing lanes from the left-hand position. And that you only realize you’ve done this when you start to hear branches thwacking the left side of the car. Hmmm.

It was obscenely expensive to add another authorized driver to the car, so since it was in my name I hopped behind the wheel and tried to acclimate myself to the strangeness of everything being backwards. Reach for the seat belt, nope, it’s on the other side. Reach for the gear shift and hit your hand on the door, damn, that’s on the other side too. Hope you can shift left-handed. I was very grateful to have had two days in Iceland to get used to driving a stick shift again, otherwise we would have surely died in Ireland, but I think that practice actually made it a little harder to shift left-handed. I’m not sure how many times I punched the door reaching to shift with my right hand. My brother had been living and driving in England for the past five months, so he quickly fell into the role of my “driving on the left” coach, mostly I think for his own self-preservation.

The two biggest pieces of advice they give to first-time visitors to Ireland are to get used to driving in a parking lot or on quiet country roads first, and whatever you do, do not under any circumstances ever drive in Dublin. I pulled out of the rental car lot and into Dublin traffic.

The first thing you notice driving through Dublin is that there is not a single car there that isn’t all jacked up. They’re all covered in scars from what appear to be daily collisions-Oh Jesus, stay on the left stay on the left stay on the left. I think the biggest thing that helped me adjust to driving on the left was the fact that the roundabouts were far more complicated and scary than the left-hand driving, so I quickly had something much bigger to worry about than not pulling into oncoming traffic. Thankfully Aster was there to tell me stop, turn left, get in this lane, speed up, oh God that’s a baby carriage, etc., and before long we were sailing smoothly on the M50 freeway, where the only thing you had to worry about was that there’s an invisible toll that you can’t see or pay in person and you have to go on your phone within 24 hours to pay it because whatever Ireland that’s fine.

I did almost freak out on the M50 the first time a car passed me on the right. This car goes cruising by, and THERE’S NOBODY IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT OH MY GOD. Does that passenger know his driver bailed out someplace? How do you honk that? How does this even happen?? Of course after a second I realized I was an idiot and that was the driver sitting in the passenger seat because this is Ireland and everything’s backwards here. It’s funny how you can understand something mentally but your instincts are still all messed up from a lifetime of familiarity with something else.

I’d wanted to see Wicklow Mountains National Park, so pretty quickly we were off the serene freeway and into real Ireland driving for the first time.

What makes it real Ireland driving? The width of the roads. Now people will tell you “The roads are narrower in Ireland!” but that really doesn’t prepare you at all because you imagine the narrowest road you’ve ever driven on in the US and think “Ok, I can handle that.” No you can’t, and that would have been a four-lane road in Ireland. 90% of our driving in Ireland was done on roads that were about seven feet wide. That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that’s for two-way traffic, and the speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour, and people really do drive them that fast.

And immediately off the edge of the lane on each side there’s a stone wall. Most places we traveled outside of Ireland, when there’s a road this narrow that’s intended for two-way traffic, it’s really only meant for “one way at a time.” Meaning when a car approaches coming the other way, you both stop, awkwardly flash your lights at each other, and then one of you backs up into a driveway or a little wayside or something so the other can pass. Not in Ireland. It’s physically possible for both cars to squeeze through, given there’s literally an inch of clearance between your side mirrors when you do it, so why slow down?

So you spend your time driving along with a stone wall about an inch and a half off your left-side mirror and oncoming cars missing your right-side mirror by an inch or two, over and over again, the entire time you’re driving. And it quickly becomes very, very clear both why Europeans prefer cars smaller than anything we can even buy in the US, and why no one in their right mind insures cars in Ireland.

I’d say drivers in the US have at best a very vague sense of the size of their cars. It’s just a big bubble of carness and you kind of know sort of where your back bumper is from a lifetime of not backing into things, but it doesn’t matter since you never really come very close to other cars in everyday driving. Passing a foot away from another car would be a pretty close call in the US. Driving in Ireland you come to know the exact contours of your car like it’s your own skin, down to the inch, because otherwise shit’s gonna go down.

That’s all scary enough when the road is straight, since you’re in this chute where you have no room for error at all on either side of the car, and you're driving with your tires right on the center line to keep from losing your mirror on the other side. But then the road gets windy and things get really interesting. You have to make all kinds of mental and physical adjustments to drive over there, but the biggest one for me was turning off my “Oh My God I’m About To Die” reflex. We all have a physical reflex where if something’s about to hit us in the face, we involuntarily close our eyes. I had to constantly fight the reflex to do this WHILE I WAS DRIVING. We’d come around a corner, there’s another car whipping around also hugging the center line right in our face and don’tcloseyoureyesdon’tcloseyoureyesdon’tcloseyoureyes. Most times I was successful.

One thing I had to adjust about my driving style was to be less nice. You see a car coming up the road in the opposite direction, and all your instincts are that it’s way too close and you should get over to the left a few inches in your lane. You start to do this and then your brother screams because you’re a quarter inch from oh yeah there’s a stone wall on that side. But since you got over the ¾ of an inch you had available to you, the driver coming your way doesn’t get over his almost an inch, and you feel the wind impact in the seat of your pants from your two cars passing so close. Eventually I learned the best strategy when a car was coming was actually to fake a little swerve into their lane to back them off the center line, then move back to your spot right before you hit them and everything’s peachy.

The icing on the cake of Ireland driving was the fact that virtually every road had a 100 kilometer per hour speed limit, even if it was physically impossible to drive above 50 on that road. This became a running joke as we’d hit a tiny narrow road modeled after a Six Flags roller coaster and... yep, 100kph speed limit. The only time the speed limit would drop would be if you were going through a town or past a school, which I think clued me into the different driving philosophy they have in Ireland. In the US, the speed limits are based on how fast you can safely drive on a given road. They’re for your protection. In Ireland, they seemed entirely geared toward protecting pedestrians. If you weren’t in a spot where there were likely to be people in the street, have fun dude. 100kph.

My brother had been very excited and amused at the thought of watching me learn to drive on the left, getting to enjoy all of my beginner’s foibles. The flaw in his plan was that he was sitting on the left side of the car that was constantly just missing walls, trees and sheep. He admitted to me that he had not thought this plan all the way through.

One of the things that fascinated me most on this trip was how quickly we as human beings can adapt to new things. I felt like a completely different person from the morning of my first day in Iceland to just that first night. Ireland was much the same, like entering a cocoon and emerging three days later as someone who could thread a needle at high speeds with a chintzy little Japanese sub-sub-compact like it was nothing.

As my brother likes to point out, I drove the entire first day in Ireland in third gear. Trust me, any higher gears than that seemed completely superfluous. Then on the second night, I was driving down through the mountains and contending with this bonkers road that curved around the ledges with barely a reflector, guardrail or turn arrow in sight. That was one funny thing about Ireland, it seemed like the road crews had just put out whatever they had with them at the moment. Long open stretches of road would have solid double yellow lines to forbid passing, then you’d have a regular passing-friendly dashed line on an insanely curvy road that constantly bobbed up and down so that your visibility was never more than 50 feet. Likewise on this mountain road, you’d have a reflective turn arrow for a very modest gentle turn, then nothing at all when the road did an intense 180 degree switchback with no guardrail over the side of a cliff. Other times there would be turn arrows, but they’d be pointing the wrong way. We had a theory that the signs had either been placed close to quitting time, or they were just there to mark the spots where it would be a pain in the ass for them to retrieve your car if you went off the road. If you went into the ocean, that was England’s problem.

I think something broke in me while boogying down this unmarked hairpin turn road in the dark of night. For a while we had a car following us, clearly thinking we knew where we were going, but after some close calls with the abyss that car did a hilariously sudden U-turn in the middle of the road that should be the international sign language signal for “Nope! Fuck this!” We somehow survived that journey and the next morning I woke up driving like a local. I mean, I didn’t wake up behind the wheel drunk and barreling down the road, but you know what I mean, I’d emerged from the cocoon. All of a sudden I was doing 130kph on all the roads and ducking and weaving around slower cars. After I’d spent about an hour racing a BMW through various villages my brother noticed the difference and turned to me. “Wow. What changed?” My answer became our maybe-ironic-maybe-not mantra throughout the rest of the trip:

You gotta die some time.

Totally losing my fear of death and becoming truly Irish opened up the possibilities of seeing what the Nissan Note could do. Quickly I learned that 130kph was about as fast as it could realistically take turns, because at that speed the tires would chirp and you’d start to skip sideways across the lane like a flat stone on a lake, which wasn’t always what you wanted to do. Oh, and I probably should have brought this up in the Iceland chapter, but when you’re throwing a tiny little manual transmission car around turns and stomping the accelerator hard into the floor, there is no way in the world to not feel like Matt Damon driving that little Mini in The Bourne Identity. I didn’t get to drive down any staircases in Ireland, but that was only because Ireland doesn’t have stairs yet.

One thing I was not prepared for was how pretty Ireland is. Most countries have lovely sections, but pretty much every inch of Ireland was beautiful. Everywhere you looked there were rolling green hills, picturesque waterfalls, and sheep. Oh my God were there sheep. I was yammering on about how many sheep there were when a British person asked me “Don’t you have sheep in America?” I explained that yes we do, but we have more people than sheep.

BTW, If you just came here for the sheep stories, don’t worry, the Scotland chapter’s gonna be wall to wall sheep.

Back to day one. After leaving the airport we drove down through the Wicklow Mountains, which were quite stunning. We traveled down to Glendalough to see the ruins of the monastery and the round tower there. A lot of my itinerary was focused around ancient spiritual sites, and in Ireland I wanted to see the round towers that the monks built long ago to collect the energies of the heavens and the earth so they could soak them up when they meditated inside. These did not disappoint. The hilarious goats wandering around the ruins seemed to like them as well.

We spent the first night at a farm cottage in Ballylooby, which we’d booked just because, come on, Ballylooby. The owner left us cinnamon rolls and a picture of Jesus with an electric candle in front. Aster asked if I thought it was an ironic picture of Jesus and I said I thought not, this being Ireland and all. Inside the cottage I was introduced to the quirks of non-American electricity and plumbing.

First off, everywhere we went in Europe, there were no light switches or electrical outlets in the bathrooms. The light switch is always out in the hall, which is something they should tell you before you blunder into a bathroom in the dark. And the power outlet, well there’s just no power outlet, if you want to run a hair dryer you need to run an extension cord from the kitchen or wherever. We weren’t sure if someone famous had been electrocuted in a bathroom at some point over there or if they just hadn’t heard of the ground fault safety outlets that we have in our bathrooms over here. I think the light switch thing was just because they’re really fond of that joke where you turn off the lights while your sister’s in the bathroom.

What they did have instead were on demand water heaters, instead of a big water heater in the basement. Cold water comes up the pipe and into a box that you turn on in the shower and voila, you’ve got hot shower water if you managed to figure the box out and didn’t think it was a shower radio.

After leaving Ballylooby we visited the round tower in Cashel and the restored castle there, which was a nice reminder that what we normally see now are just ruins of castles. When people lived in them they had finished walls inside and were fairly nice, rather than living surrounded by dank stone blocks all the time like some kind of goddamned animals.

cashel

We stopped for lunch in Cork on the way west, and Cork was nicer than I expected. I have no idea where my expectations of Cork were coming from, since all I knew was it’s the thing that keeps your wine off the floor. Cork’s actually pretty vegan-friendly for Ireland, and they have a kind of hilarious parking scheme there. We had to park on the street and walk to a corner shop to buy a parking ticket that looked like a lotto scratch-off. You scratch off the time you parked, put it in your window, and the pass is good for two hours. Or you guess when a parking cop is going to come by (because you just saw him in the pub) and you scratch off a few minutes before that time so you can park longer for free. It’s a whimsical system.

A highlight of day two was Killarney National Park, which is small by American national park standards but green and enchanted none the less. If Ireland has any leprechauns or other weird shit like that, this is definitely where they hang out.

After that we did the Ring of Kerry drive, which is the most touristy thing you can possibly do in Ireland, driving through a loop of adorable little coastal towns where you can visit an AA meeting or buy a spoon with your name on it. This might have been more impressive if it hadn’t been pouring rain the whole time. I reflected back to the conversation between Aster and his girlfriend Libby. “Maybe it won’t rain while we’re in Ireland.” “Yeah, that’s why Ireland is so green and mossy all the time. Cuz it doesn’t rain much.”

Halfway through the Ring we stopped in Portmagee, the town on the southwest coast where you can see Skellig Michael, the island that Luke Skywalker is living on at the end of The Force Awakens. It was crazy foggy so we didn’t get to see shit awaken, but we did notice that the town smelled pungently of burnt rubber. “Damn this town stinks,” we said as we were leaving. The next town also smelled of burnt rubber. “How unfortunate for the locals,” we thought. At the next stop we started discussing how likely it was that this third town also smelled like a tire fire, versus the possibility that our car smelled like that. It was the car. Our best guess was that we burnt out some kind of belt while Bourne Identitying around the countryside. See my note in the Iceland chapter about not buying former rental cars.

At the end of the day we raced out to the coast to watch the sunset from the Cliffs of Moher. I highly recommend this. The actual place closes before sunset, which to me is like closing your football stadium right before the Superbowl starts, but I’m not here to tell people how to live. We drove backwards through all the security to get into the closed parking lot, hiked out to the cliffs, and enjoyed the incredibly peaceful view.

On our second night we stayed in a 400 year old castle outside of Galway, where the rooms were being rented out by a guy who was kind of squatting there, which was awesome. He also had a pony and a donkey named Houdini, both of which were the best, and we spent the next morning hanging out with them and feeding them carrots and walking them around the grounds. Houdini liked me so much he bit me, hard, which hurt a lot but I’m pretty sure being bit by an ass is still better than being bit on the ass.

Our third and final morning in Ireland we drove out from the castle to Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy Mountain on the west coast that people climb as a spiritual pilgrimage, a form of penance, or just for shits. St Patrick famously climbed the mountain, fasting for 40 days and 40 nights at the summit. Pilgrims today seek to follow in his footsteps, at least for the climbing part, and there’s a complex three station prayer-heavy official pilgrimage you can follow if you’re so inclined. There’s a little chapel on the top dedicated to St Patrick, as well as a grave-looking thing that says “St Patrick’s Bed” so I don’t know if they buried his mattress there or what.

Aster and I like to hike together, so this seemed like a perfect adventure for us. Climb Croagh Patrick! The first video I’d seen online was basically people slipping and falling down the shitty loose rocks that cover the mountain, and I watched another video that was two drunk old Irish guys trying to climb the mountain in the fog, clearly having come straight from the pub.

stpatrick

We got to the base at the same time as a large group of teenagers, which annoyed me at first, but in the end they were entertaining and added a lot of local flavor. Even the one with the loud Bluetooth speaker strapped to his pack because of course everyone wants to hear your music dude.

For a climb that only takes a few hours it was still pretty tough, mostly because you’re scrambling up loose slippery rocks the whole way up, and it can get quite steep. About a quarter of the way up, one of the teenagers cracked me up by crying out in a thick Irish accent: “Oh, Saint Patrick! Whatcha doin’?”

Aster left me in the dust immediately at the start of the climb, because he’s part of the new generation and they are faster than us. I later found him napping on a hillside about halfway up. From that spot you could see the many messages people had spelled out with rocks on the lower slopes.

From there it got really steep and became more of a climb than a hike, with each hand and foothold carefully chosen so you didn’t slide down the whole mountain in an avalanche of shitty loose rocks.

Closer to the top I started to encounter people coming down, which complicated things because there was really only one halfway good path and it wasn’t built for two-way traffic. I passed the time by talking to the climbers coming down, a couple of whom had accents so thick I had to take it on faith they were speaking English at all. All the road signs in Ireland are in both Gaelic and English, though I only ever heard English spoken, so these old timers must have been speaking English. I think.

“Good morning!” “Arg mega melamenopa balarney mea!” “Okay then!” Occasionally you’d hear one or two words clearly enough to convince you that they really were speaking English, but that just made it more awkward that you had no idea what they were saying.

At the top the view was glorious, spanning out across the rolling hills to one side and across countless tiny islands and the sea on the other. We sat on the steps of the chapel as it blocked us from the wind and watched a woman in full backpacking regalia pace in a loop around the chapel seven times repeating seven Our Fathers and seven Hail Marys, completing the second station of her pilgrimage.

I didn’t fall at all on the way up, but I made up for it on the way down, introducing my butt to shale three times while repeating three Our Fathers and three Holy Shits. We were in a bit of a time crunch to get back to Dublin (literally on the extreme other end of the country) for our flight back to London that evening, and every minute I saved by falling headfirst down the mountain was an extra minute we gained to spend checking out Dublin before our flight.

To protect the guilty I won’t mention how fast we drove to Dublin or the insane time we made going from the west coast of Ireland to the east coast. I’ll just say we drove too fast for the burning rubber car smell to keep up. Then we leapt straight into the gaping maw of Dublin, snarled with traffic, where nothing moves quickly at all. One big difference between American and European cities is that you can usually get into or out of most American cities fairly quickly due to the layout of the roads. Not so in cities that were built long before freeways existed.

Just driving across part of the town took two hours, and it was an exciting two hours, with every manner of motorized transport crammed together into the quirky, winding roads, and bicyclists with no fear of St Peter zipping through it all without even touching their handlebars. I’d wanted to see St Patrick’s Cathedral, and we did get to see the outside, but going inside would have required promising to stay for an entire service that bumped right up against our flight time with a margin for error that neither of us was comfortable with, and that was saying something. We did get to walk around a bit in a fruitless quest for vegan dinner and got a feel for the character of Dublin’s neighborhoods, including their extremely graphic “Don’t let your dog poop on the sidewalk” signs, before rushing back to return the rental car.

Back at the rental car place, they were genuinely surprised and impressed that we hadn’t damaged the car further. On the outside, anyway. They gave the car a once-over and the guy looked at me with genuine respect and said “Wow. Well done.” Then we hauled ass out of there and sprinted across the entire airport, only making our flight back to London because it had been delayed due to them running out of in-flight lottery tickets.

All in all, Ireland was the biggest surprise of the trip for me. I’d wanted to see it, sure, and to see where my ancestors had come from. But I didn’t expect to come away feeling like I could easily live there myself. It probably helped that it was the only country I visited that didn’t make it very, very clear upon entry that you absolutely cannot move there. Outside of every second spent driving a car, the entire country of Ireland felt so warm and peaceful you didn’t want to leave. We met some fellow American tourists a few weeks later on our way out of Paris and we compared notes on Ireland. We all agreed, we would love to live in Ireland, if they only had clothes dryers. Wait, what? Oh mama, check back on that in the England chapter.

. . .


COMMENTS:
YibbleGuy
June 07, 2016
Jazz–I’m loving your amazingly funny travel stories, but you left us hanging on one certain photo …

What about the bag of SPECIAL CALF NUT?!?!

So many unanswered questions:

1) Is Special Calf Nut:

a) Special Nuts for Calves?
b) Nuts for Special Calves?
c) Nuts *of* Special Calves?

2) The bag’s a little crinkled–is it “19%” Special Calf Nut? Or “1996” Special Calf Nut?

3) If it’s “19%,” is that a high potency for Special Calf Nut? Or, given that it’s 81% non-special non-calf non-nuts, has it been stepped on a few too many times?

4) If it’s “1996,” was that a good year for Special Calf Nut? What are the criteria for judging Special Calf Nut vintages?

5) Why is the plural of “Special Calf Nut” “Special Calf Nut”? Because if it’s not, I’d hate to think that huge bag holds one enormous Special Calf Nut. Particularly if the definition of Special Calf Nut is 1.c). Although that would go a long way toward explaining what’s Special about the Calf ….

6) This is ISO 9001-certified Special Calf Nut. What are the features of a Special Calf Nut Quality Management System?

7) What was the thought process behind “Rhyno” as a brand name? Why is a creature that’s big, mean, and horned an appropriate symbol of Special Calf Nuttery? Did they use “y” instead of “i” because they were afraid of being sued by Rhino Records? If so, I don’t think they have to worry about that anymore … but it was probably a valid concern back when it was bagged, if this is vintage 1996 Special Calf Nut.

UpSky2
June 07, 2016
Now then Yibble (just about that comment before me, youknow…):
1. Whaaaaat makes you so curious about calfs, and their nuts, you know?
2. It’s probably just cattle feed, you meandering babbler.
3. We like you anyway, YibblingGuy. 🙂

And now back to our show….

That was good. Great to know that Green Ireland really is Green and Great Ireland really is Great, and furthermore that climbing up a mountain makes you feel like a spiritual experience and such. Makes you feel great. Like the time I climbed up the Camden Hills (a pair of mountains near Camden in the state of Maine, a place like no other in a time that never exists elsewhere… even if it’s not great in some ways, including the pure but cuttingly cold breeze… but anyway…)

The Irish burned out their magnificent economy last decade and got even more bankrupt as a nation than the Icelanders did, and maybe their driving and the state of their cars reflects that. Or maybe your car just has to be barely limping along with 10 % of its outer shell undamaged for you to get through inspection licensing taxes and fees. Like the lenient laws of the State of Virginia,which is right next to Maryland where your car Must. Be. Perfect. (Last I heard. I haven’t driven a car in a decade or two, either place.)

The man your host was squatting in a castle? Och.
….should have got him some furniture he should, or a chair at least.

You summed it up, when the guy at the rental counter when you turned your car back in said, Wow – Well Done!
Now that’s a Nice Country.

Can’t wait to hear more about Rusk England (hwere everythins crusti.) And so forth… 🙂

Robin Ireland
June 20, 2016
My mom wants me to tell you that she is absolutely “in love” with your writing skills! Been reading these to her and we can’t get enough!!!!


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MORE POSTS:
Easter Island Oh Jesus I just hit a speed bump so massive it might have actually been a bridge for dogs. I was going 50 miles an hour. My jeep lurched violently into the air, then scree scree screed to a stop at an awkward diagonal angle up the road. Wow. Sorry jeep! I hoped the guy wouldn’t look up from his YouTube videos when I returned this thing.

Chile The cashier and bagger explained this to me via Spanish and yelling, gesturing that I’d need to go all the way across the massive store back to the produce section to print out a banana sticker. The 293 people in line behind me groaned in unison. I replied, via a mixture of Spanish and English that we’ll call “Seanish,” that this was in no way necessary and that they should just charge me whatever the maximum banana charge is.

The Southwest At one point I got tired of doing this and decided my car could make it over a bread-loaf-sized rock in the road, which promptly lodged itself between the bottom of my car and the road, producing a loud SKREEEEEEEE scraping sound that vibrated the entire car as I continued forward.