Ireland with Kids: Driving Wicklow Gap

When we started talking about returning to the international travel we did before kids, my head was filled with thoughts of new horizons, countries unvisited, sights unseen. Central America, South Africa, New Zealand. PB’s list consisted of Ireland and the Philippines, two countries we’ve already been to (Ireland twice) so that we could visit his far-flung relatives. Again. I have nothing against either of these places, nor of his kin, but come on! Let’s go somewhere I can practice my Spanish, someplace that qualifies as another notch on the travel belt, someplace we won’t have the safety net of family.

OK, Ireland it is. BUT. If we’re going to Ireland, again, and you want to spend a lot of time in Cork with your brother, again, then I’m getting some time in Dublin. I mean, how many times can one go to Ireland and not visit Dublin? So I got my three days in Dublin, PB begrudging me every day in the old country not spent with his brother, and I feel that while we certainly didn’t see every little thing, I got the sense of the place.

The other thing I negotiated was that we would drive between Dublin and Cork instead of taking the train as we had done the last time. This way we could take our time getting down there (it’s less than three hours away) and maybe even throw in a side trip or two. The drive wasn’t a hard sell since we would need a car in Cork anyway but the side trips were  begrudgingly accommodated as long as they didn’t take too much time away from the family visit.

OK, back to the airport to pick up the car and begin the adventure of driving on the wrong side of the road. With kids. Since I’m prone to motion sickness, I’m the driver. The staying on the left part I master quickly enough, helped along by PB who spends the entire trip quietly reminding me, “Drive on the left,” whenever we approach a turn. Good thing I’m comfortable with a manual transmission. Um, yes, when I can shift with my right hand like nature intended. Finding 3rd gear with my left hand I struggle with intermittently the whole trip. I am now supremely happy to learn that the European map I bought and preloaded onto our TomTom GPS device a) actually finds our current location in Dublin and b) knows where both Wicklow and the bro-in-law’s are. We’re off.

As a born-again camper, I had decided that if we couldn’t camp in Ireland (and you can, but that was out of my hands this time) at least we could get some gentle hiking in. So I routed us from Dublin to Cork through the stark but beautiful Wicklow Mountains. No sooner did we leave the nice big highway for those delightfully charming, narrow, windy Irish back-country roads then BB loses her breakfast. Wait. BB? Sister’s the one who’s supposed to get sick in these situations. It seems I’ve passed on my motion sickness to not one but both of my offspring. Let’s hope they got some of my better qualities as well.

She’s shrieking hysterically in the back seat and I do a highly illegal and dangerous maneuver the wrong way down a one-way lane to get us to where we can pull over and assess the situation. The clothes are completely trashed and the back seat and seat belt are covered in vomit. We strip the child naked by the side of the road, rinse her off with some bottled water, dress her in clean clothes, sequester the soiled clothes in a plastic bag  stuffed in the hatchback, and clean up the back seat the best we can. Which isn’t very well, judging by the smell that permeates through the cabin.  Sea Bands don’t work for shit. Once she’s cleaned up, BB recovers nicely and we continue on our way.

Wicklow gap was breezy and misty but the girls loved clambering over the big rocks and it was a nice break during the long car ride.

stark terrain

Beautiful heather carpets the landscape

kids on rocks

Nature’s playground

The fresh, cool mountain air and ramble through the heathers and over the rocks has left us refreshed and ravenous. Time to find a nice little restaurant by the side of the road.

Maybe in the next village.

Is this a village?

Ooh, there’s a pub. Closed until 4 pm.

Despite having planned our route down to the kilometre, I have failed once again to anticipate the need to provide sustenance for my children. We get back on the main highway and eventually find a Tesco grocery store that sells prepared sandwiches.We eat in the car. With the windows open because it’s still somewhat rank from the earlier episode.

I had with great forethought programmed T’s address in B- Park into TomTom before we left the US. Very grateful to have turn-by-turn navigation covered so I could focus on driving on the left and finding 3rd gear, I brush off PB’s growing alarm that we are going the wrong way.

PB: Where is this thing taking us?

Me: Look, it says right here, we’re going to B- Park.

PB: This is taking us back by the Cork airport.

Me: ?? No, I programmed in your brother’s address.

PB: This is wrong.

Me: Well, we’re almost there. Let’s see where it takes us.

TomTom did indeed take us to B-Park in Cork. The other B- Park. There are two!! Good thing I had also programmed in the name of the hill close to where they live before deciding I could do better than that and get us all the way to the exact house. Thirty minutes later we are climbing the memorable hill into the old B- Park.

T's apartment

The girls were delighted to be reunited with cousins O and M and the rest of the evening passed pleasantly.

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