Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Rock of Cashel

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All of the Pints and Chips are slowing me down and I'm way behind. In the bar of the hotel we're at (The Carrigaline Court Hotel - a Ramada Inn-esque 80s looking place), they've been showing the darts championship and we've watched it that last couple of nights. Watching darts is incredibly boring, but after awhile it's really mesmerizing. It's totally distracted me. Or the Pints and Chips have.

On Thursday the 22nd (of July, in 2010) we left Dublin, went to the airport and rented a lovely Fiat from the nice people at Europcar. Somehow they screwed up, or refused to recognize our sovereign rights as U.S. citizens, and gave us a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side and then expected us to also drive on the wrong side. Also shift with our left hands. Completely inexcusable.

driving on the wrong sidethe wrong side of the road

Neither of us had ever driven on the wrong (i.e. left-hand) side of the road before. It was the one thing about our trip that had me freaked out for weeks. Before we left, an English friend of a friend who's lived in the States for years said "oh, it's not bad, but every so often you forget what you're doing and find that you've switched lanes and are heading into oncoming traffic."

Which is actually true. However, it does get easier. The key is not to think and just allow the body to do it's thing. Except, you do have to actually think "drive on the left" and "left turn easy, right turn hard" and "that person isn't in my lane, I'm in their lane".

The absolute worst part is that once you exit the highway (or rather Motorway, or the smaller National roads) you get onto Rural roads, which are incredibly narrow, and one lane each way. Most of the time it feels as if there is no margin between you and the other lane or you and the shoulder, which switches from asphalt immediately into grass or hedges.

And the roads are curvy, and the speed limits are often 80km/h (50mph) which feels completely unreasonable. I wish I could have recorded the particular road we were on today (specifically, R600, between Cork and Carrigaline) because it was fast and curvy and boxed in by hedges, shooting through tunnels of trees. Really, it was incredibly fun.

When we rented the car, I had to do the walkaround to check for damage and I noticed that the left side of the car had lots of scratches, but that the right side didn't. I now understand why.

Anyway, on the 22nd we went down to Cork, and on the way from Dublin, we stopped in Cashel, to see the picturesque Rock of Cashel, the ruin of a (mostly) 12th century castle. We didn't go in, but we walked around just to see what was around. Coming over the rise of the hill, we saw the most amazing sight.

Hore Abbey (rock of cashel)

Without getting too lathered up about it, this was one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen. I guess if one is from or spends enough time in the old world, one gets jaded by castles and rolling hills and farms, but I'm a simple man from the suburbs of southern California. This was the stuff of deeply lodged cultural memory, the stuff of semi-forgotten movies about wizards and kings. The sort of thing that doesn't really exist. Except, apparently, it does.

(The ruin is of Hore Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian monastery).

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