As I traveled through County Wicklow a couple of days ago, I thought – now I understand why everyone talks about the weather in Ireland … constantly. I was driving in high winds and horizontal rain. However, it was also necessary to wear sunglasses due to the glare on the road. I also found myself lowering the sun visor since I was driving directly into sun. It was crazy, yet, normal. Okay, maybe not horizontal rain.
If you subscribe to social media news feeds then you have read more than one joke or comment about the weather in Ireland. They generally are based on fact. I have experienced gale force winds whipping off the southern coast to two weeks of summer sun to frosted roads that meant black ice and road warnings.
But, it is Ireland. You can check the forecast in the evening, but don’t be surprised if you wake up in the morning to find it has changed. Then if you wait another fifteen minutes, it can change again. Weather radars are best relied upon to gauge the current weather status.
You will experience sun. Yet, the best suggestion that I can give is to count on rain in some form every day. Be prepared and carry rain gear at all times. By all means, carry forward with your plans; never cancel them due to the weather. Ireland is available rain or shine.
(Featured image: Standing in sun with rain behind me and showers in the distance. Glenmalure, County Wicklow)
This trip I ordered a compact. The ads usually give you an example as a Ford Focus for a mid-size. But the cars have actually been a bit bigger. It isn’t the driving that I find difficult, it is the parking. Or as Eileen calls it … bending.
The winner … A Nissan Micro. Micro might be a good name for it. We can barely get both checked bags into the ‘trunk’ area, but it is really a hatch back. With the back seat available, we did just fine. However, as Tammy stated … it had that feeling of being squeezed in.
But, it fits. It fits on national roads, but more importantly, the local roads. Even better, parking was so much easier. Not only was there room between the lines in car parks, but when you back out of the spot, you have room to maneuver. The bonus, I actually paralleled parked a few times.
If you are reading this and are considering driving in Ireland, I would suggest the compact size. Don’t fall for the ‘€2.00-a-day-upgrade’ to a mid-sized. Size does matter, especially if you want to go confidently down smaller roads and not panic when that semi comes around the bend.
This is for those that want to know about the ‘car’. One of the best memories we have from June is the ugly orange BMW. We were expecting one that was old and full of dents; definitely not orange.
This time around … not a BMW, not orange, and still no dents and dings. As of today, still dent free. It is a Skoda, grey, with a manual transmission.
I actually like it. It shifts smoother than the BMW, so it has been easy to navigate around the curves and hills. I can’t believe I am going to say this … I am glad I didn’t get a BMW.
I was born to drive on the left side of the road!
I am getting it. After a couple of days, I am no longer having to chant ‘left, left, left’. I am reading the road signs better … I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I don’t remember many of them that first day. Thankfully, many of their signs are more European than American, which means they are familiar to Sara (who lived in Germany). She quickly became the designated navigator.
Motorways are interstates and they have a set speed limit of 120kph or about 70mph. They have wide lanes, but don’t forget …. Left, left, left. The slow lane is on the left and you exit on the left. As of yesterday, we have the BWM going 120kph in sixth gear. Yep, six gears. There is nothing like putting that car into that last gear and really cruising … Okay, except if it was on the autobahn without a speed limit.
The ‘N’ highways or national highways are equivalent to our US highways. They (mostly) have wide shoulders and run at 100kph or 62mph. We can get the car up to that speed and we even had someone pull out over to get out of our way … Conquered.
The ‘R’ highways … Well, they are often posted at 80kph. They are nuts! I can get there if we are on a straightaway … But usually these roads are winding, no shoulders and often, what looks to be weeds along the road is actually an inch of weeds that camouflages the stone wall. Originally, Sara referred to her side of the car as the ‘death seat’ since I would get a bit close.
What is the big deal? Well, take a county road … remove any hint of a shoulder and drop it to one and a half lanes. Add stone walls (for miles), often hidden by a thin veil of weeds, flowers, etc, then put two cars on that road and they meet. Let’s just say we often have only a few inches between mirrors and that is when you are hugging the wall. We call the passenger seat, if the window is open, the Queen Ann’s Lace ‘whipping chair.’ You can literally hear the weeds slapping the side of the car as we drive by … All at 50 miles an hour! Add the occasional truck coming at you … I haven’t pee’ed my pants … yet.
Actually, I am having a great time with the challenge, regardless of the gasps, ‘oh crap’, etc., coming from Sara.
In town … There are some roads that are only one lane for two way traffic. We have found that the local Irish are great at pulling, stopping and letting you through. It is common … So we now pull over, stop and take turns on those one lane streets, too!
Finally, roundabouts are EVERYWHERE. If you miss a turn, just keep going around…. I don’t really like the ‘imaginary’ roundabouts. These are the ones where they have painted a circle in a crossroads area. They are the ones that take some getting used to and the was the culprit of my first, slam-on-the-brakes-before-you-hit-the-other-car incident. No contact, but was close enough to notice that he was quite handsome! He simply stopped, smiled and sped off!
One last thing … We found a seventh lever on the driver’s seat!
When I would mention that we are going to be driving around Ireland, I have often received a curious look, closely followed by … You do know they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. It is usually more of a statement than a question.
So, picture this. You have been up for 24 hours and the one thing that you have put off worrying about is the car/drive. It then begins to sink in as we are standing at the car rental kiosk as they are taking drive’s licenses, etc. Then you hear … What would you like to drive? A BMW or a blah, blah, blah…. The clerk was patient as I asked … A BMW? Same price? And he says … Yes, a BWM and a blah, blah, blah. We take the BWM!
Out we head to the car lot. Instead of both of us searching, I go ahead. I am going to drive first. I keep thinking … I was planning on an old beater and I was just handed the keys to a BMW! Ahhh, man!
Once located, I think, can this get any better? I was hoping to not draw any attention to ourselves as we drive down the road. Not only is it NOT a beater, but it is brand new (9055 miles) and it is of a color that screams …. Looks at us! Yes, it is bright orange.
Again, remember …. 24 hours with no sleep. So, I go to unlock it, open the door on the left side and the steering wheel is missing. (Hopefully, no one is looking…..) I go around to the right side and in I go. Now, repeat after me … I can do this, I can do this, I can do this ….
Next, adjusting the seat. There are six different levers on this seat … Who knew? Then a keyless ignition … Won’t start. So, I sit there. Sara is still standing and waiting. Still smiling about the wrong side of the car. Turn it off … Then on … Nothing. Then … Duh, push the clutch in!
So, off I go in the parking lot. We load up, Sara gets in and begins to adjust her seat to move it back; I am focusing on getting things moving and I hear this ‘whump.’ I look over and she laying flat on her back with this surprised look! I think … Wrong lever! And , we still haven’t left the parking lot! We can do this, we can do this ….
We have 55 miles to go. Sara is navigating and I am thankful that we flew into Shannon. There’s is very little traffic. We can do this! Off we go and Sara is stuck hearing …. Stay to the left, stay to the left; left turn, tight; right turn, wide; roundabout … Left and exit on the left. Left, left, left ….
I hate to disappoint everyone, but the drive was mostly uneventful. I love roundabouts – if you aren’t sure, just keep going around until you are! Interstate passing or fast lane is on the right. Interstate exits on left. Roads can get get very narrow … Sara kept waiting for me to take off the mirror on her side by the stone walls. And, I want to hug to the left, which mean we hear ‘thump, thump, thump,’ as we drive over the road reflectors.
The only incident was when I had to turn right in construction … Turn wide. But thought, follow the Irishman in front of you. Wrong choice … Another American going to wrong way in construction. We bumped a construction sign, but the paint left on the car rubbed off. Lesson learned – don’t assume the person in front of you knows what they are doing!
Here is our BMW!
By the way … We had three guys watching us in the parking lot. I hope we made their day!