Sadly our time in Ireland has come to an end with the next part of our journey taking place in the land of Wales. Still, we learned a lot in our time in Ireland. Here is a summary of our observations:
1) The pub is the center of everything. If you need anything, anything at all, just go into the local pub, have a drink, and make friends. You will at the very least have a good time.
2) What they say about “Irish time” is true. If the entertainment is posted to begin at 9 PM then it is likely to occur more around 9:45 -10. When your appointment says 9ish; they aren’t kidding about the ish!
3) There are no drinking fountains. If you need a water refill you are likely to find success in the “toilets” about a quarter of the time (usually the sink is too small), otherwise, you should go into a local pub where it is illegal for them to not give you water.
4) Toilets, at least the free ones, are hard to come by. While there is usually one available in the grocery store, it is usually unlabeled and sometimes accessed only by passcode. No one will say no if you ask, but still. The “public” restrooms usually require some change and sometimes don’t even contain drinking water! As for roadside pee breaks, we pulled some off on some of the backroads, but sometimes it can be hard to find a decent spot not covered in dense bushes and locked fields.
5) Marriage equality? Believe it or not, Ireland was first this time! They passed a Marriage Referendum back at the end of May.
6) Ireland is relatively gluten-free friendly. Many restaurants have gluten-free options, but more importantly, the grocery stores are stocked full of fresh and affordable gluten-free breads and even delicious treats! I had a delicious apple pie with my honey in Ireland for $2.99 euro. Gluten is also a labeled allergen by law.
7) Dogs dogs dogs everywhere. We believe this is a European thing. There were also signs everywhere related to dog clean-up.
8) Laundry in Ireland is crazy expensive. The campgrounds we paid $20 euro for wanted to charge us another $10 euro to do our laundry! We went in town to find a cheaper rate and realized the self-service launderette was charging $20 euro (one wash and one dry). The cheapest rate we could find in our travels was $5 for one wash and dry at a hostel in Limerick. We took advantage.
9) The weather can’t make up its mind. We seriously had to wear layers at all times. Every time the sun came out, we’d have to take off our jackets only to put them on again 10 minutes later when the sun darted behind a cloud. Short sleeves, long sleeves, double long sleeves…thank goodness we had everything on our bikes!
10) At 8 or 9 at night, the grocery stores “clear” all old food, putting it in a special clearance aisle. We could find chicken for 2 euro! Pretty cool.
11) While every Irish person will adamantly tell you that the cars hate bicyclists in Ireland, the truth is the Irish drivers are very friendly compared to US drivers. They will wait patiently for you to go up a hill or bend and will give you wide berth 95% of the time. Never a honk or middle finger. The only thing you might sometimes be subjected to is roadside lectures by old men concerned for your safety.
12) Campgrounds are not what we in the US would call campgrounds. You will be charged as much as you would be charged at a hostel for a flat shaved piece of lawn next to a bunch of RVs. If you are lucky the internet will work and the showers will be included, but most of the time that is not the case.
13) Playful and mysterious alleys that you want to explore are everywhere. In the US, you see an alley and you think stay clear. Not so in this country – they are truly a wonderful feature of European cities!
15) Ireland is a beautiful and diverse country. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and the people we met. By cycling through, we were able to meet people from all over with different life outlooks and perspectives and view all kinds of amazing scenery. Our only regret is that we didn’t make it to the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, or Cliffs of Moher, but I guess that is an excuse to come back for another trip!