Clare inside our rental car
We landed around 6:30 am, rented a car, got euros (not enough) and headed off to County Kerry and our first Self-catering accommodation, Tralia House. At the car rental booth we had a bit of a hassle about insurance, but I’d heard that renting a car in Ireland was tricky because they tack on so many extra fees. The explanation is that there are more cars about now and the roads are not very good, thus more accidents. The car rental companies don’t want to be stuck with large bills so they require renters to pay up-front.
The drive down to Kerry is better left forgotten. In retrospect we should have not attempted to drive 5 hours after very little sleep. Dean opted for a manual transmission, and of course the Irish drive on the left side of the road, so it all made for an interesting ride.
The road to Firies (pronounced fi-rees) from Dublin is beautiful. We saw a few ruins along the way and once I saw a fox in a green field. I also saw wood pigeons, magpies and a swan.
Ballina, Co. Tipperary
We stopped in a small town called Ballina, which is on the southern tip of Lough Derg. Dean had a half hour nap, I had 40 winks. Clare took a stroll around the area.
We drove into town, but coming back was frightening. The narrow roads and parked cars (in the roads) and crowds of people walking (in the roads) caused much anxiety (a taste of things to come?).
We continued our journey to Tralia House and were doing fine until our GPS insisted we go through a roadblock. We avoided it, but she insisted we turn around. We ignored her the third time and then got very lost. Either the GPS was pouting, or the roads we traveled were not mapped. In any case we ended up on some very narrow roads that would have been scary to drive even if Dean wasn’t dead tired driving an unfamiliar car in a foreign country on the wrong side of the road.
We eventually found Farranfore, the small town with the roadblock again and asked for directions to Firies at a food store. The cashier, a friendly young woman, was very helpful and showed us, in-person — she left her cash-register, the road we needed to turn onto to get to Firies. She said the next town we came to would be Firies.
We returned to the car and drove the road as directed. Before too long we arrived at a tiny town (with lots of new development), parked in a pub parking lot called The Stands Bar (which used to be Johnny’s Bar — I’d seen a photo of it online) and phoned Áine (pronounced on-ya) to let her know we’d arrived. After a little confusion on the phone, probably resulting from my accent, I spoke to Áine who said she’d be right there.
After waiting a few minutes we saw her car (she described it as an Audi Jeep — but perhaps the Irish say Jeep when we say SUV?) and followed her the mile or so to Tralia House. When we turned down what looked to be a dirt road, but was actually a very long driveway, I was a little concerned, but when I saw the two story yellow house in person, the concerns disappeared completely. It was more beautiful than in the online photos.
Áine showed us the inside of the house, explained how the hot water and power shower worked, and told us about places to visit in the area. When we explained that we hadn’t exchanged enough money at the airport to settle with her, she immediately asked if we needed some Euros to tide us over! We said we had enough for a day, but thanked her for her offer — we just couldn’t pay for the house yet.
A cozy fire at Tralia House
Áine’s husband, Liam, arrived then, with a bag of wood for the solid fuel stove. He also left a bucket of coal in the shed if we wanted to use it as well. He showed Dean how to light the fire. Áine and Liam stayed for a while, talking about places to visit. They offered us the use of their phone for when we needed to make reservations for places and encouraged us to “call [on] them whenever we needed to — their house was around the corner. Áine even offered to buy us a chicken to cook, or even one already cooked, for dinner — or drive me to the store to get one. We told her we brought some food from home, and were planning on having a simple meal, then going to bed.
Kitchen in Tralia House -- our first meal
We ate our first meal in our first house in Ireland — Annie’s Mac and Cheese with canned tuna. It felt like dinnertime, but was only around 3 pm in Ireland.
Áine and Liam are possibly the nicest hosts I’ve ever met. Later that evening Liam came back with a map and a handwritten note from Áine about some of the places we’d discussed to visit. He also brought his eldest child, a son called Patrick. The also brought two extra bicycles.
Dean, Clare and Andrew took a bike ride while I stayed at the house and looked at some birds.
I saw several rooks (that have a roost in the large tree behind the house — probably more than 20 nests). They are loud and when they loose their feathers (which they often do) the feathers fall to the ground like “whirlybird” maple tree seeds do). I also saw a winter wren and swallows. I also heard a bird with an American Robin-like song, that may have been a thrush.
A curious cow, just outside our front gate
I watched the cattle walk from their field to get milked and shot a few photos and a video of them.
When the kids got back they showed me where they’d been exploring. We saw a pile of rubble that may have once been a house (or perhaps it was from the house we were now staying in — it had gone through a major renovation recently). We also saw a couple of old buildings, one looked like it was once a home — with two rooms and a fireplace. We disturbed the rooks, who were sent flying and cawwing.
Dean, at my request, had gone into town for a bottle of wine. When he returned we had a glass of wine, then I cooked some scrambled eggs and Irish rashers (which Áine had bought for us at my request) for dinner.
After dinner Dean went to bed and the rest of us took showers. I’d tried to take a bath, but the water never got hot enough to actually bathe and the radiator in the bathroom didn’t work. Too much cold for my taste.
The weather is reasonable. Sure, it’s in the mid- to low-60’s, but when the sun shines it feels warmer. We also brought plenty of warm clothing.
The kids and I went to bed after Dean. Andrew crashed at 8:30, I succumbed to my exhaustion at 9:15. Clare held out until past midnight (at which time, she informed us, it’s still light outside).
More photos of Day 1 on Flickr.