SLOW. VERY SLOW. VERY VERY SLOW. Traffic Calming Area Ahead.
The first time daughter Kathy Gulseth and I spotted these signs painted on the byways of Ireland during an action-packed six-day trip last month, it was whimsical. But with Kathy driving masterfully on the other side of the road and the other side of the diesel vehicle, and me juggling the portable GPS (which needed charging every 30 minutes) and the outdated road map, and reading the posted signage, we knew it was serious business.
Take care, and no problema.
Many friends had cautioned us about driving there, and the roundabouts, but we found that with the proper attention these were all manageable and sensible. That being said, the GPS (which I affectionately call “Gypsy”) tended to direct us over hill and over dale, until we learned to ignore her and follow instinct and find the nearest M or N major highways. Over hill and dale was indeed scenic, but slow and narrow and bounded by high hedges with unforgiving stone walls hidden within.
The most harrowing was a deceptively short route from Blarney Castle to our bed-and-breakfast, where we inched our way downhill past vehicles which were taking turns inching their way past us going uphill, inches away from Kathy with her rear view mirror folded in. I, of course, was inches away from the stone walled hedge with my mirror turned in. What a photo op that would have been! There was no alternative way to travel, according to Gypsy or the map, and it gave meaning to the sign at the top where we turned, “Unsuitable for Heavy Traffic.”
The road not traveled was out on the isolated Dingle Peninsula, which we chose instead of the heavily traversed Ring of Kerry. After enjoying its rich history and harsh terrain where the beehive stone huts afforded little warmth and poor farmland long ago, we considered taking a shortcut back over the hills.
The yellow sign with a little car depicted at a 55-degree angle was enough to deter us — the narrow dirt road was one thing, but steep was definitely another! We were glad we continued on, because the last phase was even better — like our Highway 1. We looked out at Skellig Michael, to which Luke Skywalker has hidden away in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
We also had been told about the dreary gray villages, but that is a thing long past. The “Tidy Towns” contests have brought out pride of Irish heritage, and the villages proudly sport fresh paint and colorful doors and windows, while the annual winners display their banners prominently.
Daffodils were blooming everywhere, planted in gardens, along the roads, and even growing wild through the grasses. Our innkeepers were pleased to report that we were “here at a good time when it is clear.” Even though heavy clouds loomed, “clear” meant “not raining,” as it had since November until just five days past.
The food was delicious, well prepared and plentiful. A full Irish breakfast each morn sustained us until our late-afternoon meal. In Ennis, we unpredictably shared a gourmet dinner during early bird hours: fresh seafood appetizer, roasted duck breast with black current coulis, a huge side of potatoes, carrots, parsnips and broccoli, and a wedge of Irish cream cheesecake. That would have been for one person. Did I mention the brown bread, which we always loved with sweet butter? And we enjoyed the same vegetables every day, but prepared differently.
Next month I will share a recipe for a unique Irish soup. The usual was potato leek, or tomato basil, the latter being so popular they were usually out of it. On our last evening in Dublin, we treated ourselves to an exquisite Argentinian pinot grigio with our seafood. Though we had looked forward to a complimentary pint of Guinness, alas the day of our tour the brewery was closed — Good Friday.
Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian and appears on the third Thursday of each month. Submit recipes and ideas to her at The Cambrian, 2068 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428; or email to Cambrian@thetribunenews.com