Creative Writing: Under The Spell - A travel tale by Danny O'brien
"The great advantage of having an ancestry like that of a mongrel dog is I have so many ancestral homes to go home to."
We caught the ferry from Le Havre, France to Ireland, land of my ancestors. Every since I was a wee lad, my mind has been used as a canvas by every Irishman who has been displaced from the Emerald Isle. A picture of quaintness bordering upon myth. Cute I thought it would be, but never as much as the tourist hype I had read. I donned my suit of armor constructed of cynicism, forged by age. Protected thus from the hype, I the ancestral child would see Ireland as it really is. Mind you, no tourist hype for me.
The ship pulled in to Rosslare Harbor near Wexford and lowered its gangplank. I made it most of the way down before I was sucked clean out of my armor into, head over heels, and under the spell of the Emerald Isle.
We had arranged for a rental car, to be picked upon arrival at the harbor. I thought perhaps we would be shown how to operate it. Instead the attendant said in his sweet Irish brogue, "It's the wee red one over there," and handed me the keys.
Still dazed by the sudden entrance in to "The Spell" we sped off in our wee red Ford Fiesta. Every so many hundred yards along the road signs reminded us to "Drive to the left." On the open road it was no problem, however moments later in the congestion of Wexford I was near panic, yelling at Travis to help remind me what side of the street I was on. It didn't help that he often mixes left and right up in his mind, some sort of hereditary functional disorder. I almost broke out in sweat when I had to make my first right turn feeling as though I was going head on into the oncoming traffic.
By the time we got through Wexford I was in desperate need to stop for a wee pee. I saw a small side road and took that hoping to find a secluded spot to relieve myself.
I discovered that when you leave the main roads in Ireland you are almost immediately secluded. We stopped in front of an old abandoned barn made of stone with an unusual door shaped like a horseshoe. The earth smelled wet and fresh and was a bit boggy, more so when I departed. It was only a few hundred yards before we learned our first rule of driving in Ireland. One must share the road with all other life forms. In this case a herd of very big fat black and white milk cows. First in front of us and soon all about us. The rear end of the heard lead cow was in front of the car, walking down the center of the road in a very leisurely manner, lots of large bovine eyes were peering through the side windows. Patience is definitely a virtue when driving in Ireland. Never, never be in a hurry to get anywhere. The roads are almost all narrow and two lanes but the surfaces are quite good and it is a pleasure to drive without feeling separated from your surroundings. Any less separation at this moment and we would have been up to our noses in cowtits.
One of the mysteries of Ireland is how such a small country can be so big. We arrived at Rosslare Harbor at two thirty in the afternoon and managed to drive the total distance of thirty five long miles before seeking shelter for the night in Slieveroe near Waterford. The whole of Ireland is ninety miles across by one hundred miles long, yet the thought of driving across Ireland in one day would be unthinkable. We would contemplate driving on to another location only to decide that it would be too long a journey for one day, then check the map to discover that our destination was the huge distance of fifty four miles.
A great part of the mystery was solved when we realized that the purchase of the wonderful Michelin No.405 map of Ireland contributed to this illusion. The map scale is 1 inch equals 6.30 miles. A map of California at this scale would be over eleven feet long.
Our wee map of Ireland was only four and a half by three feet, perfect to unfold in our wee...
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