Failing to plan is. . . blah, blah, blah
Actually it was not failure to plan that thrust me into the middle of sheep pastures in a foreign country with no car, no telephone, no cell, and no Internet. The hard truth is, plan A failed. I had no plan B.
If you recall, when last we spoke I was in a pub in Dublin raising a pint to the approach of my 60th birthday. Well, in truth I wrote that blog before I left town and set it to publish on my regular blog day. As it unfolded, on Friday the 26th I was actually in a bed and breakfast in Dublin gnawing on Atkins bars and swilling tap water.
You may also recall that I was toying with the idea of going back to a kinder, gentler day of less technology. Be careful what you ask for.
As I alluded to last time, I’ve been talking about going to Ireland for years, then decided to just do it. I told a friend I was going and she said, “Not without me, you’re not.” So we found a flight and set about trying to figure out where to stay and how to get from point A to point B in a foreign country with narrow little roads and people who drive on the wrong side. My travel buddy had a brainstorm and arranged for her son-in-law’s brother to come over from England and drive us around. I quit twitching almost immediately.
An Internet search yielded a charming little cottage in Cashel, County Tipperary, “A quaint town situated ideally for touring southwestern Ireland.” I reserved it. The day of departure arrived and our driver called to say there was a family emergency and he had to cancel. The twitching resumed, but we pushed trepidation aside and agreed we would just go and then take time in Dublin to make arrangements for the rest of the trip.
I will make this part of a very long story short and say that we soon learned that: 1) it is not so easy to understand train and bus schedules in Ireland, 2) not far means the average athletic 20-year-old can make it on foot, and 3) never, ever listen to anyone who advises you to leave your cell phone at home to prevent international phone charges.
(Let me digress and tell you of a bright idea I had last June when I decided to do some traveling alone for the first time in my life and set out for Midlothian, Va., by way of Enterprise, Ala. and Winston-Salem, N.C. After a series of minor misadventures, I decided there should be some sort of how-to manual so that other senior female single unseasoned travelers could learn from the mistakes of others. I would do a travel blog, I thought, and call it, “Old Broad on Tour.” While I did not start it then, now seems an opportune time to begin. Rule number one: Make a plan, research to make sure the plan is viable, then have a backup plan and a backup to the backup. Rule number two: Take a cell phone everywhere when you travel.)
Back to Ireland. After leaving Dublin, with no backup and no cell, I, the Old Broad (Ob for short), and the Other Old Broad (Oob) found ourselves sitting on a wooden bench at a train platform in the Irish countryside with no stationmaster on duty and only one or two other passengers milling about. The landlord of our cottage in the quaint town of Cashel was not waiting to pick us up at the station as we expected. Through a miscommunication of some kind in our emails — sent whenever we had Wi-Fi for the iPads — he thought we had it “all sorted out” and had no need of his services. Oob did a quick study on how to use a pay phone with Euros and too many numbers and called him. We were instructed to take a taxi (something we had been told NOT to do by our travel advisor) and he would meet us at the cottage.
Handing over the address to the taxi driver, we soon learned that our cottage was not actually in the quaint town of Cashel, it was “not far” from Cashel in a picturesque sheep-farming community called Dualla. Metropolitan Dualla boasts a pub and a church. And sheep. Our kindly landlord met us at the cottage, listened to our tales of woe and drove us to Cashel for groceries, telling us to email him about going into town on Monday.
This was Saturday night. We discussed the idea of renting a car, then decided neither of us was brave enough to take on driving. We decided we should contact our families to let them know we were alive, but found there was no Internet. There was also no land-line phone. We couldn’t call home; we couldn’t email the landlord; we couldn’t even call a forbidden taxi. On the bright side, we had food, and the Atkins bars stayed packed away for emergency purposes.
Sunday was spent enjoying the beauty of the sheep fields and horse pastures, walking through the garden behind the cottage, eating a home cooked meal and conjecturing what our children were thinking happened to us and how the inevitable episode about us on A&E would play out.
On Monday, my birthday, the landlord came by wondering why he hadn’t heard from us. No Internet, we pointed out. Didn’t we bring iPads, he asked. Those require Wi-Fi, we explained. “Oh, right,” he said cheerfully. “My wife is always tellin’ me I need to be getting’ Wi-Fi out here.”
A sweeter man you’d never meet, and he cheerfully drove us to Thurles to a shopping mall, as Oob said she wasn’t spending another day without a cell phone. With the little packet of communication magic in her purse, we were suddenly at peace and allowed the landlord to drop us off in Cashel, the “quaint town situated ideally for touring southwestern Ireland,” where we explored the shops and the Rock of Cashel and a private, self-styled “museum,” before finding the Brian Boru restaurant for my birthday dinner, where I did indeed lift a pint of Bulmer’s in honor of the day.