After inadequate sleep, an awkward breakfast (the Gremlins and their parents joined my table), and a few helpful tips from a lovely Australian couple, I departed for County Clare. There was a distinct difference in driving conditions in County Clare, and “two-lane roads” became a mere 7-8 feet wide, and were often flanked by seemingly harmless bushes. I came to discover through second-hand experience that those bushes are really just unkempt decoration for the SOLID STONE WALLS that line the country roads. Suddenly the zip ties on Seamus’ passenger-side hubcaps made more sense.
I did my best to stay on my side of the road, not that there seemed to be “sides,” really, and eventually came across a small sign that read, “Burren Perfumery.” It sounded interesting, and considering my nerves and the numbness of my ass from sitting for a few hours already, I made a snap decision and followed the arrow. It turned out that the roads in County Clare could get even smaller, who knew? Toss in some blind corners and hairpin turns, and you’ve got one hell of a ride. I spent at least 20 minutes following sign after sign, hunting through the Burren for some dinky perfumery, just waiting for the moment in which some Irish farmer would come tearing around a corner at 80km/hour and headbutt me into Heaven. Half lost, I constantly wondered, “what do you do if you meet another car on the road?” Part of me was optimistic enough to believe that I might get through the Burren and back to the highway without having to answer that question, but it was wrong. The moment of truth came when I whipped around a half-circle turn and slammed on my brakes as a car appeared out of thin air. My tires ground into the gravel and my adrenal glands prepared me for impact, but I opened my eyes and saw that the other car had seen me and stopped. There was a moment where I thought, “oh god, what if this is just the longest one-way road ever, and I’m the asshole American who missed a sign.” But in true Irish fashion, the other driver was very kind, and he gave an emphatic “go ahead” gesture. He then proceeded to stuff 1/4 of his car into the bushes, which scratched and squealed against the metal and windows. Not wanting to seem rude (or stupid), I slammed the car into gear and smashed Seamus into the bushes on the opposite side of the road, barely slipping past as my Farmer Friend waved goodbye with a huge smile.
He disappeared in my rearview mirror, and I was left to ponder what the hell had just happened. The more I thought about it, the more the answers became clear to me: What happens when there are two cars passing on a teensy road? You drive through the damn bushes, duh. But what if there’s a stone wall underneath the bushes? Zip ties, duh. In that moment, I realized how much of an uptight American I was being, and proceeded through the Burren with a newfound love of Irish simplicity.
I found the perfumery, watched a video about flowers that I would not see in bloom, poked at some old-looking bottles, and toured a garden the size of my living room at home. Huzzah, perfumery. The woman who owns the Burren Perfumery was wonderful and very informative, but it was clear that I was not a member of the usual demographic she served. I encountered a few more cars on my way back to the main highway, and had perhaps a little too much fun driving through the bushes (sorry, Seamus). It really is liberating, you should try it.
Seamus really took a beating that day. Not only was he whipped with branches on several occasions, but he was forced to chug up mountain switchbacks for a better part of the day. I drove a significant part of the way to the Cliffs of Moher in 1st gear, solely because that was the only gear that kept us moving forward and up. There’s a great little restaurant at the Cliffs of Moher, with stunning views and really decent food, and also a few little crap-trap tourist shops of no consequence. But the Cliffs themselves are stunning, and 100% worth the arduous drive. I’m not going to bother posting my pictures of the Cliffs of Moher because they’re completely worthless. Every picture I’ve ever seen, including mine, make them look like they’re a part of a Polly Pocket scene compared to their actual scale. “Majestic” is a word I heard often from people who had seen them before me, and that’s precisely what they are. I have included below, however, a picture of O’Brien’s Tower, shot from on top of the Cliffs themselves. There’s also a picture of another buddy of mine who thought my coat was delectable.
I left the Cliffs of Moher and took the car ferry from Killimer to Tarbert, and continued on until I reached my next destination, Killarney. Upon arriving, I checked into the Muckross Farm B&B, a working farm with a wonderful family who were excellent hosts. I was shown to my room and then told that I was welcome to go see the horses in the barn. Horses?! Hell yeah! Turns out there were not only horses, but also bunnies, goats, sheep, chickens, and THESE GUYS:
After satiating my intense need for puppy snuggles, I set off in search of dinner and landed at Molly Darcy’s restaurant/pub. Having consumed half of the most amazing meat pie I’ve ever had, I became aware that there was apparently a very important sports event occurring, and many of the patrons in the bar were engrossed. There was a group of gentlemen to my left, who were kind enough to say hello and briefly explain the Irish national sport of hurling to me. I also learned from them that I should root for County Clare to win the game, solely because County Cork people suck. Having dated a Cork man in the past, I was inclined to agree with them, and we had a great time watching County Clare become champions. Once the game ended, the gents informed me that they were actually at the hotel next door for a wedding, and would need to return now that the game was over. They also invited me to join them, so I did. I was introduced to many people as, “Kaylynn, the American,” and promptly had a Guinness shoved into my hand. I had a fantastic time meeting the guests of the wedding, including the lovely girlfriends of my newfound pub friends, and left the event in the wee hours of the morning feeling very privileged to have been included in the celebration. I also learned that the traditional wedding cake for the Irish is fruit cake, which, as an American, I thought was highly entertaining.
Stay tuned for Part 4, in which I’m nearly run off the road by sheep, and have an unsettling encounter with someone’s baby in a pub.