For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been traveling in Ireland with my partner Mick. A week in Dublin was followed by a week maneuvering a silver five-speed Skoda Fabia through the Wicklow Mountains, up to Cashel, down to the southern peninsulas of the Wild Atlantic Way, through Killarney National Park, and finally to the Budget Rental desk at Shannon Airport. We returned our little car, which we took turns driving, without a scratch. We were quite proud of that since many of the roads we drove on were only about as wide as our standard suburban driveway, had no shoulders but did have stone walls and hedgerows, and we sometimes met tour buses coming from the other direction. Oh, yeah, and they drive on the left in Ireland. A neat little sticker in the lower left corner of the windshield reminds renters to drive on the left.
We learned to spot other drivers who were trying to remember to stay to the left – there was a tendency to hug the left side of the road. Or to drive down the middle. Or to nearly stop in the face of oncoming traffic. We were lucky that we had driven in Ireland before and knew what to expect. That didn’t make it any less exciting when we went over a few very narrow – as in one-lane – and curvy mountain passes. Passes that included sheep in the road. And hikers, bikers, and old men with canes, all of whom were quite confident that no one was going to run them over.
One of the things that struck us was how many Americans we met on our journey. Every single place where we stayed had fellow Americans and many of the Irish people we spoke to told us of trips to the US. According to census data, Irish ancestry is second only to German ancestry as the most commonly-claimed heritage in the US population. In fact, there are more Americans who claim Irish heritage than there are people living in Ireland. (See this article from the Washington Post.) So, I guess we should not have been so surprised.
Nevertheless, this discovery at one of the B&Bs we stayed in startled and delighted me:
I have hundreds of photos to sort through and stories to write about Ireland that will gradually appear here at One Minnesota Writer. For today, I offer a focus on the small things that kept catching my eye, and on the immense gratitude Mick and I share for being able to travel, catch up with friends, meet new people, and see a bit of a beautiful, wild country. Click on any of the images to see them in a larger format.
Happy Monday. Happy end-of-July.
All images by kcmickelson 2017.