Day 12: Galway to Dublin to Moira

October 13, 2010 16:34 – 16:34

We’re at Ballycanal Cottages near Moira, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. We’re way out in the county—in a cottage (there are 5 connected cottages… not stand-alone) that’s on a farm with cows, sheep, horses, etc. I’ll take some outside pictures tomorrow. Here’s where we are (Wren Cottage… the yellow dot near Moira), about 14 miles southwest of Belfast:

You can’t see it on the map very well, but a blue canal runs along the north edge of the property here. I’m guessing that’s the “canal” in Ballycanal.

We got on the road in Galway at about 11 this morning, saying goodbye to the Jameson Hotel Apartments and lousy internet connections. We decided to stop at a Supermacs Express at about 12:30 for lunch. We were curious. We’re no longer curious. They’re a local (Ireland) competitor to McDonald’s, and as much as I hate McD’s, Supermacs isn’t in the game.

(The meteorological service got the weather wrong for today, by the way. They’d promised sun and a high of around 16. Instead, we had fog until about 1:30 this afternoon, and even encountered drizzle, and a high of 11—about 52F. No sun in evidence. The forecast for tomorrow looks like it will be a near carbon copy of today, while Friday evening and Saturday during the day will be rainy.)

Back on the road, the trip to Stillorgan/Blackrock/Monkstown/Eaton Square (take your pick) was mostly fast and uneventful. Mostly. But, while on the M50 about 8k from our exit to get to Eaton Square, traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl, with four lanes compressed into two lanes. Just as I was considering a detour, we saw the problem. A truck on an overpass above the M50 had overturned, dumping many tonnes of sand onto the two faster M50 lanes (glad I wasn’t there when it happened). Yes… a sand trap on a motorway. In any case, once we got past that, traffic zipped right along, and by 2:45 pm, we were seated in Lola and Don’s atrium, enjoying tea and snacks.

It was very nice meeting Lola and Don, after having corresponded for a week and living in their house. They are every bit as warm and nice as we knew they would be. Maybe we’ll rent their villa in Italy sometime. If their Eaton Square house is any indication, their villa in Italy must be spectacular as well. Both are well oversized for our actual needs, but it is nice to be able to spread out. Their villa in Italy, by the way, has window screens. So, bugs aren’t an issue.

The drive up to Northern Ireland from Dublin was also mostly uneventful, except for the last 2 miles. We got behind a tractor (towing a large tanker of some kind), twisting and winding on really narrow roads. Whenever any traffic came from the opposite direction, the tractor and its load moved to the left, flattening whatever brush or shrubs happened to be in its path. The only good thing about that 12 minute segment was that we were positive that no oncoming vehicles would hit us.

By 5:45 pm, we had arrived at the cottages, and were being shown our cottage by Emma. We were a little concerned at first. We’d rented the two-bedroom Swan cottage, and were shown to the three-bedroom (and 3.5 baths) Wren cottage. When we asked, it turned out that someone else had extended their stay in the Swan, so they gave us this one for the same rate.

This place has five beds (three doubles and two twins), and three and a half baths. Plus, the sofa seems to be a queen-sized foldout. So, in theory, this little cottage could sleep up to 10 people. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be here with 8 other people, and I would feel sorry for the neighbors. Here’s the living room from a couple of angles:

The kitchen & living room actually are one large room. So, part of the kitchen is in that picture as well. Here’s the rest of the kitchen:

And here’s Karen, surfing away.

“You’ll also need to by an electricity card,” Emma told us. Travel is learning. Apparently, for some places, you have to buy a card (it looks a bit like a Metro fare card) for electricity. You slide the card into the control center for the electricity, and the meter adds that amount to your reserve. After “topping off” our electricity, the meter showed £6.40. That was at about 6pm. It’s now about 10:30 pm, and the meter shows £6.00 even. So, we’re using about 10p per hour. We’ll be here for about 60 hours, and our rate during the day will be a lot lower. In any case… it’s one more thing to be aware of, and I guess this system builds awareness and conservation.

For the internets, they have a property-wide wireless system, although it’s not terribly strong where we are. While we both have weak wireless signals, it’s not dropping every few minutes like the connections were in Galway (though it does still drop occasionally). It’s about 50x faster than the wireless “broadband” we had yesterday, which makes a world of difference. It also worked instantly—while it took me two hours to get my O3 Galway connection working. For download, it’s about as fast as the DSL I had before moving to FiOS (3Mbps was our last DSL speed before switching—we currently have 25Mbps at home). Upload speed is only about 330K, but that’s still much better than last night.

After taking the Wren tour, we headed for a gas station to fill up the tank. Gas here costs £1.19 per litre (unleaded). With the exchange rate at about $1.58, and about 3.79 litres per US gallon, that’s about $7.13 per gallon. Gulp. It costs between $80 and $90 per fillup for our Toyota Avensis rental. So, you guys back home… stop bitching about the price of gas, okay? At home, I was paying $2.91 per gallon for diesel (at most), and my Jetta gets in the mid 40s on the highway. The Avensis is getting about 30 miles per gallon. So… at home, it costs about six cents per mile. Here, it’s costing about 24 cents per mile—four times as much as I’d pay for the same travel in the U.S. Did I mention “gulp”?

In any case, after plunking down about £55 for gas, I noticed that the gas station was also a grocery store… also a Subway… and also a Tim Horton’s. We decided to go the full self-catering route tonight & bought a beef pie and some broccoli to split for dinner. Too bad I forgot to buy some wine. But, even with Coke Zero and Diet Coke (my choice of poison and Karen’s, respectively), dinner was more than sufficient. It was by far our cheapest evening meal of the trip so far. Here’s what was left of the beef & onion pie:

And, now we’re just sitting here being internet junkies.

Tomorrow looks to be the best weather day for our remaining time in Northern Ireland. So, we’ll probably head up to the Giant’s Causeway. It’s about an hour and a quarter (63 miles) north of us. We’re still deciding what else to include in what will probably become a loop.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.