21 May 2013, Tuesday
So far today I’d been to the Glasnevin Cemetery and the National Botanic Gardens. Now I was going to meet up with Gerry and we’d figure out what the rest of the day might offer. I left the Botanic Gardens and followed my GPS back to Gerry’s place, where we had tea and relaxed for awhile.
If you’re going to need a GPS (and, let’s face it, you probably are), it’s wise to bring one from home. It’s an extra ten euro per day to rent one with your car, which adds up quickly. In my case, it would have added 100 euro to the cost ($130), but the UK maps I bought from Garmin for my own GPS were only $70—that’s nearly half, so I was really glad I did.
Glasnevin—the community—is a pretty middle-class neighborhood, and I love looking at houses, so I took my time. I’ve always been fascinated by how different homes can look from one county to the next, one state to the next, one country to the next … I mean, the purpose is the same: roof, door, windows—a place to eat supper and sleep. But how different someone else’s house can be from what one is used to! For example, folks tend to fence their front yards in Ireland (I’m generalizing), but in the last hundred years or so, that custom has become much less common here in the States. So … I enjoyed my drive.
Picked up Gerry at his place, then we went back to the hotel, had another cuppa, and relaxed and regrouped for a bit. We had a dinner reservation but plenty of time … so we decided to go for a ride up toward Malahide, a pretty, picturesque little village Margaret and I had been in, briefly, last fall.
There’s been a settlement at Malahide since the eighth century, but it really took off in Georgian times, when it became popular as a seaside resort for wealthy Dubliners. It still is. As we approached the town Gerry said, “Oh, look, there’s Ronan Keating; he lives here.” (Keating was out jogging.) So that pretty, picturesque little village is just one little part of a thriving town; appearances can be deceiving. My guess is most of those upscale residents shop in Dublin.
We tourists shopped in Malahide. 🙂 I had a list of books by Irish authors I wanted to pick up, so we hit both bookstores, Manor Books and Village Books. (By the end of my trip I’d managed to find five of the seven on my list—Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship; Molly Keane: Good Behavior; Kate O’Brien: The Land of Spices; Aidan Higgins: Langrishe, Go Down; Orna Ross: After the Rising; Ann Enright: The Gathering; and Colum McCann: TransAtlantic.) TransAtlantic was a last-minute add—it was due to release in the States in June, but I wanted the Irish edition—which I found at Village Books.
As we walked around we discovered the local library—a big brick building built in 1909. I know this because it is a Carnegie library (the sign over the lintel was a dead giveaway)—one of more than 2,500 built with money from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Between 1883 and 1929, 1,689 libraries were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, and 125 in Canada.
We decided against the castle, which I had never been to. Malahide Castle is a part of the whole village experience, and it looks interesting, sure enough, but at twelve euro per person, I think I’ll wait until the off-season. The place was packed.
With dinner reservations at Winter’s Restaurant coming up, we decided to start meandering that way. We’re considering it for a gathering we’re planning. Gerry’s brother lives in the area and regularly uses this place to entertain; Gerry’s eaten there and enjoyed it. It’s a B&B, day spa, and chef-owned/operated restaurant. And it’s also off the beaten track; the GPS was very handy.
On the way, we had a second incident of the “STOP light” coming on in the car. It had happened once yesterday afternoon: a huge red light with the word STOP screaming at us from the dashboard (it went off after five minutes and nothing untoward happened). I’d used the car all morning, and now, late in the day, another alarm. Today there was an additional message: you’re going to be stranded if you don’t stop right away, or words to that affect. So I pulled over. The icons in European cars are different than the icons in my American-made car, so I had no idea what it meant. But I know how to use an owner’s manual.
No owner’s manual in the car. The light went off. We continued to our destination. Hmm.
The chef at Winter’s Restaurant—his name is Gerry too—is a delight: funny, personable, friendly. So I asked him about the car (my Gerry doesn’t drive, and thus isn’t the one of which I can ask car-related questions). “Give me the key,” he said. “We’ll see.”
It was the thermostat, he informed us a few minutes later. The car was overheating. It was a brand-new 2013 Ford Mondeo, and it was overheating. Or not. “You never know about these all-electronic cars,” Gerry Butterly said. “It could just be dust on the circuit board.” We chatted a few more minutes and I decided I’d call the car rental folks in the morning and tell them I was going to bring the car back. On Thursday morning we’d be leaving for County Clare, and we sure didn’t want to have car trouble so far from Dublin.
But about that meal … Gerry Butterly—great name for a chef, no?—is a guy who likes to cook. Order something from the menu and it might be tweaked for your personal tastes, should you have mentioned such things in your conversation with him. For example, a plate of scrumptious garlic fries appeared. The whole meal truly was outstanding, though I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t write it up in my notes, so I can’t remember what we had. (Other than those outstanding garlic fries. Oh!)
But this is why I can’t remember: on the way home the car overheated again. This time it wasn’t a warning, but a threat along the lines of If you don’t stop, the car will blow up like a nuclear bomb over Bikini Atoll. Or words to that effect. So I pulled right over. We were on a very busy highway at the tail end of rush hour. We got out the papers from the rental company and called the emergency number the clerk had circled. The tow truck would arrive in forty-five minutes or so, we were told.
The garda, however, arrived within five, pulling up on his traffic motorcycle, and squatting down outside the passenger window. “You folks OK?” We explained our problem. “So the car will move, then?” We weren’t actually broken down at the side of the road, you see, we were preventatively stopped on the side of the road. I didn’t want to seize the engine on a brand-new car. “I can’t stay with you the whole time,” the officer said, “but I’ll hang out for a little bit.”
The sun was beginning to set, cars were whizzing past us on the highway. I was glad he was there. The tow truck driver called at minute forty; he’d be another half hour. Doh! At that point the garda said he’d call his tow service and get us off the busy highway; he was a bit nervous about our situation too.
And then the clerk from the car rental desk at the airport called us. “Why didn’t you call us?” he yelled. Um, because when you gave me the car you circled the number for emergencies. I thought I was doing what you’d instructed me to do. But he was having none of it. “You’re five minutes from the airport!”—still yelling—“I could have had you in a new car ages ago!” I explained the engine was overheating; I was afraid to drive it further. “I’m bringing you a new car!” he yelled, and hung up.
The garda was still with us when the man arrived with a new car. He (garda) seemed a bit astonished as we and our things were hustled out of one car and into another just inches from a heavily traveled highway, with tractor-trailers whooshing by at 120 km per hour. “I’ll see you back at the airport!” the man yelled, and drove off in the broken car.
We sat there and watched him go. The seat had to be adjusted, I had to figure out how to turn on the lights. Every car is different. But boy, I wished he could’ve given me sixty seconds so I could have followed him.
If you’ve ever tried to drive in or out of the Dublin Airport, you’ll understand what happened next. (I got lost.) Honestly, the place is a nightmare, even after nine o’clock at night. (Why can’t it be a nice circle, like the Nashville Airport?) I missed a turnoff, and the way back was a long one. Gerry endured not one but two testy phone calls from the fellow who’d been yelling at us alongside the highway. “Where are you?” (I would’ve liked to’ve answered that question, but Gerry knew better than to hand me the phone.)
Ultimately we got a new car, one I liked much better. But instead of a nice relaxing evening, we weren’t back to the hotel until well after ten o’clock. I consoled myself with the thought that at least I didn’t have to deal with that jerk by myself the next morning. Tomorrow would be better.