Yup – that tyre’s flat

tyre

Were the Raisinets yummy?

Time to get back to it…AGMA’s back from Ireland!

And I don’t know how to thank everybody enough for sending those good thoughts our way!

M did not trip once nor did she fall ill for days with some strange virus.  And she was slurping water like a camel to stay plenty hydrated so no fainting.

But AGMA did not dare celebrate until we stepped foot in the good ole’ USA.  One can never be too careful…

We both caught colds but that seemed pretty minor compared to the litany of evils that could have beset us. 

The big excitement of the trip came on Day #1.

After landing in Dublin, we picked up our chariot for the next 8 days – a 2017 Ford Focus with the steering wheel on the wrong side.

Five years ago, AGMA also drove around Ireland with another friend.  The first few days were on good roads (decode: wide enough for two cars to fit comfortably), so I got the “driving on the left” thing down pretty well before we got to more “cosy” roads (decode: 1 1/2 cars wide and curvy, with rock walls on both sides of the road and a speed limit of 80km)

This trip was a bit different.  

Our destination for our first night was the lovely town of Kilkenny.  And as many travelers to Ireland do, we went via the beautiful Wicklow Mountains for a side trip to visit the ancient monastic settlement of Glendalough.

glen

Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century, Glendalough is incredibly beautiful – especially in the sunshine!

glen2

The Wicklow Mountains are gorgeous!

If you’ve never driven on the left before, there is a natural tendency for us “right side of the roaders” to drive a bit too far to the left.  Some, more than a bit too far to the left.  Until the driver gets a sense of where the middle of the road is and how the car should be centered, they are doomed to hang left for a spell.

On wider roads, this is not a big problem. 

On cosy roads, this can result in, among other things, tree branches slapping the passengers windshield causing the passenger to lean to the right in a vain attempt to magically move the car over.  Seriously.  I’ve been in that passenger seat before and done the leaning.  

It doesn’t work.

One of the other things that can happen is that the driver, in an attempt not to graze an oncoming car, moves over to the left too far and goes off the road.  

Sometimes they get lucky.  Sometimes there isn’t a rock wall.  Or trees.  Or thick hedgerow.  Or sharp, pointy rocks to the immediate left.

AGMA was not lucky that day in the Wicklow Mountains.  

Coming down from Wicklow Pass on the way to Kilkenny, I moved over too far to the left to avoid hitting an oncoming car (that in reality was about 2 football fields away…)   

BUMP. BUMP. BUMP.

I looked at M.  She looked at me and said, “That was jarring.” 

“We need to stop when we can pull over and see if the tire’s okay.” I replied.

Round ‘bout that time, some light came on my dash warning me about something gone amiss with a “tyre”.  And then the low tire (tyre) pressure light came on.

Uh oh…

We made it a few kilometers to Hollywood.  Hollywood, Ireland that is.  And pulled into a Emo Service Station.  

The left front tyre (tire) was indeed well on its way to lifeless flatness.

But a YUGE shout out of thanks to the people of Hollywood who were incredibly friendly and helpful to AGMA and M!

To make a long story short, we got the spare put on, and got a new tyre (tire) the next morning in Kilkenny.

As AGMA advised in my post of March 16…ALWAYS GET THE CDW CAR INSURANCE IN IRELAND!!  A-L-W-A-Y-S!!

Did I say that too loud?

The first few days were full of cosy roads, made even more cosy by having to drive directly into the afternoon sun.  Normally, NOBODY complains about sunshine in Ireland…

…other than a nervous American driver on cosy roads.

Happily there were no more incidents.  Other than backing into a low stone wall which did no damage to the Focus or the wall.  The wall has probably been there for 300 years so no surprise it was okay.

We survived.  The good people of Ireland survived.

Win-win!

Other than the tyre that sacrificed itself for a greater purpose.

AGMA promises I will finish the final AGMA’s “Easy peasy, stress free travel planning” next week.  Until then, enjoy some weird, lovely pictures from my trip.

Sláinte!

babylamb

On the Dingle Peninsula.  It was lambing seasons so there were little lambs everywhere!

bus

On a cosy two way road on a tour bus on the Dingle Peninsula.  Yikes!

cliffs

At the Cliffs of Moher.  We saw a few potential Darwin Awards winners.

fcuk

I beg your pardon…

horses

New friends on the Connemara Peninsula.  They don’t get flat tires!

Cork

The awesome city of Cork!

Kinsale

I like Kinsale’s style!

 

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Easy peasy, stress free travel planning – part 2 (how to get around)

train travel

So I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop ready to write.  Sort of.

The professional cycling season is gearing up in Europe.

And ya’ll know how I LOVE my men in spandex!

For those of you new to AGMA, I have this strange, inexplicable obsession with men’s professional cycling.  Tour de France type stuff.

Right now two stage races (meaning they last more than 1 day) are being contested in Europe.  Paris-Nice in France (duh…) and Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy.  And at this moment, AGMA is streaming Paris-Nice on her phone.  Sitting in the coffee shop.

I’m a woman of divided loyalties.

But I promised a part 2.  And AGMA always keeps her promises.  And there are only 19km left in today’s stage…

I need to preface the rest of this post and the next by saying that most of my travel advice is specific to Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  I’ve not traveled to South American or Asia, but AGMA feels certain there are lots of resources on “The Google” you can use if you’re planning travel there.

How’s that for a cop out?

So, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself because you snagged a super inexpensive airline ticket to Paris (or wherever) for a 10 day trip.

Now what?

I highly recommend you order several good guidebooks (or down load them onto your Kindle), and get onto travel bulletin boards specific to where you will be traveling.  Fodors, Frommers, & Rick Steves are all good sites you can check out.

When you’ve figured out where you want to go and what you want to see, NOW you need to decide if you need to rent a car or take trains and/or busses.

Taking trains and/or busses can be a great alternative to renting a car.  It’s generally cheaper and less stressful.  And many tour operators offer day trips to see interesting areas outside of where you might be staying.   For example, just Google “day trips from Rome” and you can see the incredible number of places you can visit for the day while you’re staying in Rome.

Keep in mind that many of those places are also easily accessible by train if you want to self-tour.

Remember, if you want to book a day tour from a tour operator, read the reviews on them and understand their cancellation policy in case your plans change.

More often than not, because of Hubs mobility issue, we rent a car if we are going to cover a lot of ground.  For us, train travel with a scooter/wheelchair and luggage tends to be a bit of a challenge.

If you’re planning to rent a car, AGMA has 3 words for. you – research, research, research!

Rental car costs can vary wildly based on the time of year, the rental car company and the website giving rental car cost estimates.

Lots of US membership organizations will offer discounts via a coupon code for US rental car companies overseas.   Check out any organization you belong to to see if they offer discounts.  AAA, my professional massage organization (AMBP), Costco are just an example of some organizations that offer discounts.

If you book a rental car using the Costco discount code, there is no charge for a 2nd driver (which can save you 100’s depending on the car rental duration and if you need  2 drivers.)

But keep in mind, booking through a travel site like rentalcars.com can often be cheaper than using a discount code on Hertz or Alamo.

Also, be aware that, unlike the US, most cars for rent in other countries are manual transmissions.  If you want an automatic, you need to change your car search criteria.  And automatics are always more expensive.

Priceline and Hotwire often have lower prices for rental cars, but you must pay in advance and you won’t know the company you’re renting from until you’ve paid.

Most of the time, no matter whether you book directly with the car rental company or through a travel site representing many companies, the least expensive option will always be a pay in advance option.  If you choose that, check carefully to see if you will get a refund if you cancel prior to pick-up.

AGMA has been known to book a car then cancel it two months later because I found a cheaper deal.

Finally, understand that there are places on this good green earth that you would NEVER want to drive.  Not sure you could master driving on the left side of the road (for North Americans)?  Don’t rent a car in the UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand.

As much as AGMA loves Italy (Hubs and I were there a few weeks ago), I would NEVER drive there.  We just don’t have the nerve!

The rental car companies recognize that there’s a higher damage risk to their cars in certain countries.  Specifically Ireland and Italy (see….).

In most countries, you can decline Collision Damage Waiver insurance.  If I use my United Chase Visa to rent a car, it actually covers CDW for rental cars in most countries.  EXCEPT Ireland and Italy…  Hubs has a deal with AmEx that also covers CDW for a charge of $19.99 no matter how long the rental period.  EXCEPT in Ireland and Italy…

Are you sensing a theme?

If you do rent a car in Ireland or Italy, you either must buy the CDW insurance (at a pretty penny) or they put a 700 Euro hold on your credit card to insure against any damage to the car.

Trust me when I say that you will have waaaayyyy more peace of mind buying the CDW insurance.  You can return the car with two missing bumpers, a missing mirrors and huge dents in the rear.  And just walk away.

If you put the deposit down, you will NOT like what you will be charged for any damage repair.  Ouch!

Part 3…wait for it….

P.S.   The race just ended and a rider on my fantasy team won the stage!!  And another rider on my team took over as the overall race leader!!  It’s been a good morning…