Aug. 24th, 2017

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More Ireland here:

MONDAY
    On Monday, we headed back to the airport to pick up THE RENTAL CAR.  This was a scary prospect because of the stupid Irish custom of driving on the wrong damn side of the road.  The entire world uses the right, but the Irish use the left, and it's truly awful.  Darwin flatly refused to consider driving, so it was all me behind the wheel.
    One bonus was the GPS.  I downloaded UK maps to my portable GPS and installed it in the car for us.  This made navigation a thousand times easier!  Last time, I spent a great deal of time pulling over and using a map to figure out where I was and still making wrong turns and getting lost.  The GPS solved all that in a heartbeat, allowing me to concentrate on driving the stupid way.  It was nerve-wracking.  When you switch to the wrong side of the road, your instincts shout at you YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! YOU'RE GOING TO CRASH! And when cars come around a curve at you, it looks like they're coming at you in your lane because YOU'RE ON THE WRONG SIDE and you want to swerve over to the correct side, something you mustn't ever do. You spend the entire time fighting deeply-bred instincts, and it's intensely stressful and awful.
    There were some bobbles along the line to our cottage in the Irish countryside.  Despite the GPS, the confusing highways around the airport got us a little lost, and Darwin kept yelping at me.  He had a hard time with the idea that there's a learning curve to Irish driving, but neither would he take the wheel himself, which gave me a more tense and difficult time as a driver.  It doesn't help that Irish country roads have no shoulders and are closely bordered by high hedges, so you can't see and you have no escape route if something goes wrong.  We had no incidents or accidents, though, and I told Darwin it was his job to ensure I stayed in the correct lane, since American drivers want to drift over to the right instead of staying on the left.  Eventually Darwin calmed down and learned not to yip or howl, and he instead concentrated more on navigation assist and saying things like, "You'll need to be in that lane so we can turn," which made things better.
    Finally we made it to Clonleason Cottage.
    Clonleason is the cottage where I stayed at last time.  It sits at the front of the driveway and just behind the retaining wall of a Georgian estate house that was built in 1773, though the gatehouse (now a guest house and cottage) was expanded in the 30s to include a living room. The acres and acres of Irish garden grounds are immaculately kept, complete with herb and vegetable gardens, centuries-old trees, shaded walks, rose arbors, and a 500-year-old stone bridge that arcs across the river that borders the estate.  The cottage itself is beautiful inside.  The door opens into the cozy, slate-floored kitchen, which has a little table and two chairs, a china shelf, and a sink-and-cupboard area.  To the left is a living room filled with bookshelves and comfortable furniture gathered around a little fireplace.  French doors open into a gorgeous flower garden.  To the right is a generous bedroom and bathroom.  Everything is done in green and yellow, and it's all light and air.  Darwin fell instantly in love.  Sinead, our landlady, and her dog met us with a friendly greeting, along with carrot cake and some vegetable soup--much appreciated!
    We unpacked and explored.  The grove with the 1000-year-old beech tree in the center that I remembered from last time absolutely enchanted Darwin.  He decided we would never leave!
    We had to go into Athboy, the nearby small town, for groceries and things.  The drive was still nerve-wracking but uneventful, and Darwin discovered the Irish rule that you can park facing any direction you like also unnerving.  Like Dublin, Athboy was a LOT busier than I remembered.  The main street was a constant drone of traffic.  How things change!
    We grocery shopped and explored the town.  Here, I was able to take Darwin to his first stone church and graveyard in Ireland.  As a cemetery and old church afficionado, he loved them both.

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