Our next day we were supposed to rent a car and drive to the western coast of Ireland. This happened. But not without some strife.
Interviewer – So, I hear that the plan had always been to rent a car and drive out to the west coast of Ireland to see the Cliffs of Moher. Did you guys attempt to rent the car in the US?
Blake – Why would we do that? That seems a little too easy.
Interviewer – Well, some might say that it is easier to do things like “rent cars” when you have dependable internet access.
Kristi – Last year, Blake successfully rented a car in Germany by simply walking up to a car rental place and asking for a car. He got an awesome BMW for cheap. I thought it would be similarly easy in Ireland. We were wrong.
Interviewer – Walk me through the rental process.
Kristi – Well, the day before, we decided we should look into the entire rental car situation. We stood on a sidewalk next to a pub, siphoning free wifi, and I booked an “economy car” with an “automatic transmission” for the (seeming to us at the time) ridiculous price of $80 for 2 days. We were upset we didn’t get a better deal, but felt like we could at least be confident that we had a car lined up. We were so young.
Interviewer – So Blake, in your own words, walk me through what happened when you attempted to retrieve your pre-arranged rental car.
Blake – Well, after walking around the airport for 30 minutes trying to find the rental car desk (we rented from National, but apparently we were supposed to know to find the EuroCar desk), standing in line for another 45 minutes at EuroCar, I finally get the keys to the car. A glowing Nissan Micra. Roughly the same size as Rusty. I think to myself, “We can make this work.” I get in and notice there are three pedals. I comment to myself, “Huh. That’s weird.” We had previously debated whether the gas pedals were reversed similarly to the steering wheel reversal, so I didn’t think much of the extra pedal.
Interviewer – Really? That seem dumb.
Blake – What? The Irish are drunken crazies!
Interviewer – Good point, continue.
Blake – It’s at this point that I look down and see a gear shift and think, “Oh shit.” The last time I drove a stick shift was also the very first time I drove a car. I was 13. On a ranch. In West Texas.
Interviewer – Kristi, what were you and Katie doing at this point?
Kristi – Katie and I? Well, I assume we were sitting on our luggage, twiddling our thumbs.
Interviewer – How very helpful of you.
Blake – Tell me about it. So, I attempt to reverse out of the parking spot, stalling immediately. Try again – stall. One more attempt, one more stall and I have the following realization “Not only will I be driving on the wrong side of the road, but I will also be driving (mostly stalling) a manual transmission. This will never work.”
Interviewer – So, you attempt to rationalize with the rental car people. What was their response?
Blake – When I tried to argue with the people (remember, I had my confirmation for an automatic transmission) they told me, “What’s the problem? You have full insurance. Go out in the parking lot and figure it out!” But imagine that said in a cheery voice, as if that is the most rationale response in the world.
Interviewer – And you?
Blake – Asked for my money back!
Kristi – Katie and I then proved our worth by fanning out to other rental car lots, asking if they had any available automatic transmissions. On our last lot, Katie found a helpful Budget Car employee who offered up one of two newly returned cars in the lot. And one of those was a large van, and both were for the low low price of one arm. Or $350. For two days. Of course, not before he offered to take Blake out in one of the manual transmission cars and teach him how to drive it. You know, because we were getting full coverage insurance. WHY IS THAT ALWAYS THEIR RESPONSE!?
Blake – After a few tense minutes (it was a lot more than the already high $80 we were expecting) we loaded into our slightly larger Nissan “something only found in Ireland” model, frustrated and tense. But we were heading to Galway, and once we hit the countryside all troubles were behind us and everyone in a good mood.
End of Interview
The Irish countryside was very green. Like the greenest green anywhere. We decided along the way that we were taking FULL ADVANTAGE of our rental car since we had spent approximately one billion dollars on it. And then we were going to drive it off a cliff (without us in it of course). That would show them and THEIR FULL COVERAGE.
We stopped at Killbeggan Distillery – the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Or so they claim. We walked through the distillery, learning all sorts of exciting things about whiskey but mostly taking pictures, and ended up at the whiskey tasting section. Since I hate whiskey, Katie and Blake got TWICE the allotment. After calming our frazzled nerves with a little bit of boozey booze, we headed back out on the road (don’t think too hard about it) and continued on our drive.
Galway turned out to be an Irish version of a resort town, with rocky beaches and tons of cute little bed and breakfasts on the coast. We found our B&B, checked in, and all previous frustrations melted away. It was beautiful. We picked a place to get some lunch, and after driving around for 30 minutes, obviously lost and mumbling “left, left, left” after every turn to make sure we were on the correct side of the road, Blake pulled up to the “restaurant.” The parking situation in Galway is precarious at best. There are multiple signs warning you about getting “booted,” and signs telling you to pay for your street spot between 9:30 – 6:30 pm – BUT THERE IS NO WHERE TO PAY. Afraid to leave the car and have to pay EVEN MORE MONEY, we each took a turn walking to the restaurant and ordering food to go. Cold quiches and soup. We took our lackluster lunch back to our B&B where we knew parking was safe, and walked over to the nearest beach. There is something deeply wrong about eating soup on a beach, while wrapped up in coats and blankets, but we persevered.
The beach was beautiful, and full of awesome shells. Don’t worry, I picked up a bunch. OF COURSE I DID.
That night, we walked the city looking for another place to eat, stumbled upon some of the weirdest performance art I have ever seen (seriously, it was a man, sitting in a chair, with some unintelligible mumbling playing over a loudspeaker, stuffing an entire flower pot worth of soil and flowers in his mouth. And then he sat there. This was the point upon which we left.)
We ate some delicious seafood, and wondered to a bar known for their music, and listened to some Irish covers of American pop songs. It was great.
The next day we began the beautiful drive to along the coast to the Cliffs of Moher. Because it was mostly a scenic day, and this post is already pretty wordy, I will just shut up already and show you the pictures.
WHEW. I cannot tell you how long it took me to download all those pictures. AND NOW I AM DONE! HOOOOORAY!