Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bushwhacking


So, my mention of Irish colcannon in yesterday's Portugal post (both countries have traditional recipes with potato and kale) now has me thinking of Ireland. Ireland brings many memories, some I've already posted on the blog, but one I have not yet mentioned: bushwhacking. In September of 1995, my parents and I visited the Emerald Isle. It was my second of three trips and their first and only. My father made all the arrangements—he is personal travel agent extraordinaire, as I may have mentioned elsewhere—and he decided to rent a car for our travels up and down the rocky western coast. For small group travel through Ireland, car rental is a great way to go, but it does entail some hazards. Actually, this is another thing that Ireland has in common with Portugal: for some years, the two countries have seemed to compete fiercely for the unhappy distinction of having the most traffic accidents in Western Europe. For locals used to the lay of the land, things like extremely narrow roads, hairpin turns, roundabouts, and sheep crossings pose no difficulty. For tourists, these are all potential sources of stress, and you've got to pay extra attention. Which is what my father did, certainly. In fact, he overcompensated. His greatest challenge was not the traffic circles or the narrow cliff-hugging passages (those rattle my mom: read this post for proof), rather, it was driving on the opposite side of the road; that is, on the left. Generally, when driving in a different environment, a person can expect the acclimation period to last about a day. My father, however, really never did get used to driving on the left side. He did it, mind you—we had no incidents—but he was so concerned, and so unused to it, that he routinely ended up with his driver's side-view mirror scraping along whatever shrubbery lined the shoulder. Like most similar travel quirks, this became humorous after a while. There he'd be, so far over to the left, allowing room for any oncoming cars (on roads so narrow, any sane person would consider them one-way); he'd put us in the bushes again, prune the greenery, and we started calling him the "bushwhacker." Our travels in Ireland that year were lovely, the Ring of Kerry stunning with its cliffs and verdant hills—but by the time we left, I have to say, there were a few less leaves on the Irish branches.

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