Ireland: part 1

by Graham

A catalog of this adventure is required. So here it is in 5 parts. And this first bit is the boring but necessary introduction. The middle three parts will capture the main action of the trip (or the lack there of). And the final installment will reflect on the whole, or something.

I landed in Dublin early. So early that the day was only just beginning to disrobe the thick clothes of night. This was good because it meant that I had much time to orientate myself. And in the end, this time was much needed.

Before flying, I was sitting on the East Coast for a couple weeks watching the forecasts for both Ireland and Cabo Verde. It seemed that Ireland was finally getting good. So I went.


Hanging out at Princeton with friends and old roommates, who are also friends.


After collecting my mammoth collection of windsurfing bags, my priority was picking up the rental car. My research prior to the trip showed that rental cars are extremely, one might say suspiciously cheap in Ireland—starting at 5$ a day. However, I’m under 25, so my only rental choice was Avis because they do not have age restrictions (so take note fellow windsurfing adventurers under 25, Avis will rent to you); their prices were slightly higher, though. Whatever. The agents at the desk were a bit dubious that I could fit all of my gear into the small euro car that I had rented. I assured them that I could (all the while planning to put it on the roof with straps).

Key in hand, I found the grey little Opel Corsa sitting quietly in the carpark. I began to search in my bags for the roofrack straps to secure my gear on top. I checked the board bag. Not there. I checked the sail bag. Not there. I checked the gear bag. Not there. At that point I began to worry that my gear might not actually fit. Oh shit. I remember holding the straps in my hands while packing back on Maui! But alas, they did not make it with me to Ireland. My gear had to go inside the car.


Here is my windsurfing gear without the suitcases. Fun to travel with...


Here is the trick to filling a tiny car (skip this paragraph if you don’t care) with 2 boards, 6 sails, 5 masts, 2 booms, 3 harnesses, 2 wetsuits, 3 bases, 2 universals, a large suitcase full of clothes, a small suitcase, and a backpack.

1) Remove the head rests from all but the drivers seat. 2) Fold the backseats forward such that the backrest is horizontal. 3) Slide the front passenger seat forward. 4) Recline the front passenger seat as much as possible (remember that the headrest needs to be removed already). Now you’re ready to start loading! 5) Put as many standard suitcases in the boot but they must lie as flat as possible. 6) Take the boards out of any board bag and place the boards (texture side down) along the passenger side such that their noses lie beneath the glove compartment (if they don’t fit, slide the front passenger seat back to allow for more room for the noses). 7) Place the sails on top of the boards (often they need to be removed from their bag in order to fit). 8) Place booms, bases, and gear bags in the space behind the backseat and next to the sails. 9) Put the small items (wetsuits, sail bags, backpacks, etc) in the empty spaces below the passenger seat (under the board noses) and under the folded backseats (accessible only by the rear side doors). 10) Finally, fold the board bag and smash it into the top space that exists in the back, above the gear bags and boards (this is the hardest step as board bags, especially wheeled ones, are incredibly large and difficult to fold).

And the car was packed! I stood triumphant for a second, admiring the amount of space that actually exists in such tiny cars. I then stepped into the drivers seat and began my Irish journey.

It should be noted that this was the first time I had ever driven on the left side of the road. Yes, I’ve spent time in England and Japan, but I was always a passenger there. And in this first instance of Irish left-hand driving, the car was so full of my windsurfing gear that I could see neither to my left nor behind me. I tentatively set off to find the Croke Park Hotel, my abode for the night.

I had no GPS, only the flimsy map that came with the car and my sleep deprived wits. I found the highway into Dublin but missed the turn off to the hotel, which is actually located quite near the airport and a ways outside Dublin City.

Dublin is a web of one-way roads, and the street signs are so small they might as well not exist at all. Literally, what is the point of having a street sign in font size 12 hidden against the bricks and probably written 230 years ago?

I stopped at 2 different gas stations to ask directions but in both instances the man running the station was foreign (Turkish?) and had no idea where the hotel was. They might not even have known what I was saying.

My spatial awareness was completely off. Where is the left corner of the car! Oh god the bonnet is hidden. Trying to navigate the completely foreign experience of driving on the left side whilst facing a handicap of not being able to see left or behind. I basically just hoped that I was in the right place on the road, not too far to the left and on the curb (or worse, parked cars, or even worse, pedestrians). It was like riding a dinosaur or an ostrich. Moving without much awareness of the exact details. Just going forward and hoping. Hoping.

I was completely lost. If I could read the street signs then the map might have helped. But as it was, I had no idea where I was. So I kept driving.

At one point I noticed that I was near Trinity College Dublin. So I parked, deciding to take a break from being lost. And in that moment I was exactly where I wanted to be. Oh, and do you know how hard it is to parallel park when you can’t see?

After walking around, I eventually found the Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery. Two helpful looking girls manned the front desk, so I thought I’d try my luck again. It turns out they were foreign as well! Polish this time. But they knew Dublin alright and even better, they had the power of their computers to help find the right route.

Directions in hand, I killed more time visiting the gallery and eating a sandwich at the attached café.

Riding blind through the Dublin streets I somehow managed to make it to the hotel without getting lost at all.

A shower and a nap later, I met up with the only Dubliner I knew, Mikey Clancy. He had just finished his final exam for the term and picked me up and we headed into the city center to meet up with his school mates. And with them I saw a different Dublin than the one that eluded me during the day– certain bits of the skeleton I’d discovered in the day fleshed out by the night.

And that was my only night in Dublin before heading out to the wild northwest coast.