The amazing airline Ryanair was offering 1 pound + tax round-trip tickets between Brussels South and Shannon. It was an easy decision to spend a weekend in Southwest Ireland, visiting amazing places like the Skelligs and the Ring of Kerry. Taking a picture frame with us. A no-brainer, of course.
On to Ireland
This was probably the first time we traveled with Ryanair, NOT flying out in the early morning, meaning we would not have to stay at some hostel in Brussels to be able to catch our plane at the break of dawn.
The trip was rather boring, as always, which basically meant that, by the time we set foot on Irish soil, our first bottle of whisky had already been downed. It meant that the car we spontaneously rented at Shannon airport was going to be driven by Joost the whole weekend, Joost being the most sober, at that point in time.
There was this one guy from…
While Joost was being called back at Charlerois airport to open MY bag so that customs could check out my toiletries, I had made reservations at some hostel in Limerick, our first port of call. Driving there, from Shannon, turned out to be fairly easy and we picked up two Germans along the way, whom we could convince to stay in the same hostel as we did. Interestingly, they decided to share one single room together.
Limerick itself is not a bad place, although we didn’t see much of it. At least it had a good-bad fish ‘n’ chips place with two amazing women behind the counter. Joost and I called it an early night, inviting the Germans to drive with us south the next day, towards Killarney and the Ring of Kerry.
The Ring of Kerry is known for its typical Irishness. The ‘Ring’ is a ring road in the Southwest of Ireland, some 175km long. On normal roads easily doable in two hours. Here, it would take most of a day. Many of the roads are so small, it’s impossible to fit two cars alongside eachother. And since the whole circular road is a two way street, some interesting situations can occur. As specially when encountering tour busses. The tourist season ends end of August, so we were reasonably lucky.
By far, the most interesting feature on the ring are the Skelligs. Two rocks, off the coast, that housed a convent for most of the middle ages, being one of the few places that saved Greek and Roman writings and books from the barbarous period between 500AD and 1500AD. A pity that the trip, by boat, to the Skelligs easily costs $30.
A night to remember
Our second night we staid in Cahirciveen. A quaint little town with a monstrous 800 inhabitants. Funnily enough, the village even has a pretty big Internet cafe, the Java-Site.ie online coffee house. But since the population can’t really be called huge, it doubles as a video-rental place, a copy shop and a computer training center. The owner and manager, Lynn Weeks, also serves REALLY great coffee.
Armed with the frame, we entered Cahirciveen nightlife, which was surprisingly lively, with live music in more then 10 pubs! Bumping into a group of women working at a nearby hotel, Joost was entertained with the local courting customs, understanding nothing. Having had two women on his lap, one twisting his ears and another punching his cheeks, we went home, baffled.
The next evening was spent in Dingle, another nice village, on the peninsula of, well, Dingle. Slightly bigger then Cahirciveen, the town really comes alive at night. A pity everything closes at 1am. That is, everything except some nightclub, nothing more than the basement of some hotel. However, we were bounced because of our picture frame. We, as they say, got framed.
Driving to Dingle we stopped at the huge Inch beach. A tiny village, with not much more besides a snack bar with wonderful view of the really large beach and a collection of guesthouses simply called Inchbeach, the location and the setting are simply terrific.
Walking on Inch beach, we bumped into a German who didn’t want to be framed. He told us: “This is too funny for me”.
We never found the Dingle bell, though, the obvious source of that world famous song ‘Dingle bells’, particularly sung around Christmas. We did bump into Rudy, a Dutch guy we had met in Cahirciveen, who’s girlfriend operated the Grapevine hostel we staid in, in Dingle.
Frameboys double up
Considering there was enough time before we had to catch our plane, we also traveled through the Ring of Dingle. At least as nice as the Ring of Kerry, but supposedly much quieter.
Shortly after leaving the town of Dingle we picked up two Canadian hitchhikers, who also wanted to travel the Ring of Dingle. Yoni and Daniella were quite fond of our framing people and happily assisted in framing rocks, grass, Chinese men and women, ice-cream and Germans.
The whole of Ireland, and Southwest Ireland in particular, is littered with remnants from the stone age, Dingle not being an exception. Sadly, from most of these remnants, the tourist board (or the local governments, who knows), also tries to make money, the most interesting being a circle of stones in Kenmare, where the entrance booth, unoccupied simply posts a sign, saying ‘Please insert one pound in this hole’. A video camera was watching over things.
The Gallarus oratory isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s quite nice. The main attraction of the complex is the oratory itself, something of a church, built some 1300 years ago. Pretty nifty built, the building’s structure, called a beehive, makes you wonder what wasn’t passed on to us, from the builders, through all these centuries. Amazingly enough, almost nothing is known of the people that built this complex and many similar to it in Ireland. Like the builders of Stonehenge, their origin and views of life are completely unknown.
Neardeath by Joost
Having a whole lot of fun, we somehow lost track of time when visiting the Gallarus oratory, after which Joost had to drive like Michael Shumacher in order to get us back in time for the plane. Just before the oratory, we also had bumped into the Germans again whom we picked up shortly after leaving the airport.
We offered Daniella, living in Shannon, our point of departure, a ride back to her place since we would literally drive past her home before entering the airport. She gladly accepted and she also was essential in the car to let us stick to a positive view on being able to getting to the airport in time. Necessary, since we realized, two hours before departure, that we still had to drive for about three.
Still, at 7:19pm, the plain leaving at 7:20, Joost stopped the car infront of the departure entrance of the airport. I jumped out, with Joost’s jacket, holding his passport and driving license, and my bag, with my passport. Running into the building and without knowing it, I lost both Joost’s passport and his driver’s license.
Quickly finding the check-in desks, I discovered they were already abandoned. However, a cleaning lady directed me to the other side of the departure hall, were I still might be able to check in. Running up to that desk, a man already standing there, I had no time to wait inline and announced that I HAD TO BE ON THE PLANE TO BRUSSELS. Then I noticed the other man at the desk had Joost’s passport and driver’s license in his hands. Grabbing the paper’s from his hands with a quick excuse, I handed over the tickets, received two boarding passes and went to find Joost, handing over the car keys.
We hurried as soon as we could towards the gate. Only hand luggage, our stuff was quickly checked, after we finally arrived at the right gate. To wait another ten minutes before boarding. We had made it.
Death by Baba
Driving back from Charlerois airport, we had quite a scare. Shortly after leaving the airport area, the roads wet with continuous rain, we made a slide entering a right turn. The end result was a totally wrecked car and a free extension of our holiday by some 20 hours.
We were brought to a Van der Valk hotel, in Nivelle Sud. Maybe not that bad an area during the day, but at 11:30pm we couldn’t even get a bite at the hotel (and everything else had already closed), meaning we had to comfort ourselves with whisky and cigars. Not a completely bad thing, come to think of it.
The next day saw us taking a cab to Zaventem airport, receiving a replacement car there, which we had to drive to Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, were we had to trade it for another car, after which we finally were able to drive home. Well, to the doctor first, to check up on our whiplashes. Nothing bad, as it turned out, luckily enough, although this trip did leave me with a minor concussion.
Not bad, for a first outing of the two frameboys.