“Carlow!??” The taxi driver was incredulous, “why the feck (yes, that’s with an “e”) would you be going there?”
We all laughed. Not only are taxi drivers the best source for down to earth tourist information but also they can be the best entertainers. He’d picked us up just in front of Bewleys, Ballsbridge and right away, from the twinkle in his eye and the laugh in his voice we figured we were in for a good ride.
Besides, the way the other driver had asked, “are you SURE you really want to be going with that fella? There’s plenty better drivers in the city,” left little room for doubt.
Along the way he told us (1) about the city, (2) where we should eat and play on the return trip and (3) how we were nuts for wanting to go to Carlow. When I tried to explain how we wanted to get to Kilkenny castle and accommodations at that town was far too expensive (owing to the bank holiday weekend) and, besides, we’d always wanted to go “up to Carlow” he good-naturedly told me to, “ahhh shut up, I’m trying to tell you a few things!” Lesley and Josephine laughed far too much at that…
About a km before the station we came to a detour that would take us an extra half-km out-of-the-way. He turned off the meter then and there at €13, “Sure, that’s enough to be chargin’ ye…” and kept up his spiel.
We arrived at the station, as it turned out, significantly early.
“I don’t want to be leavin’ you here like this,” he said. “I can wait.”
The meter was off.
“No, we’ll be fine,” I said and passed him a twenty. “No change.” The trip should have cost at least that and, besides…the entertainment value!
“Jaysis! I don’t want all of that!” He passed back a five and I knew better than to refuse it.
Why not rent a car? So many reasons: first, there’s the matter of driving on the opposite side of the road, second, parking, third, the fact that Irish drivers are…ummm… a little less forgiving than the ones in Newfoundland. Where I live, for example, if, on a residential street, about 100 m up ahead, you see someone stepping out to cross over, you take your foot off the gas and hover it above the brake, just in case. In Dublin, the procedure is somewhat different. Drivers are expected to put the accelerator to the floor and lean on the horn. I think it’s a form of sport, or perhaps a constant rite of passage for those who walk.
It’s also true that you really do not have to get a car when you are Ireland. The buses are downright cheap, and make frequent runs so you never have to wait long. The trains, too, are frequent and fast. Most buses and trains have free WiFi and, besides, the view from the passenger seat is so much better when you don’t have to keep your eyes on the road. Taxis can be inexpensive entertainment.
All that aside, the real value is in interacting with the people you get to meet when you leave your own little bubble and having a bit of fun with the ones you get to share your space with.
Two nights in Carlow…
…and a day trip over to Kilkenny.
It turned out that the driver was wrong about just one thing: Carlow was worth the visit! …as was Kilkenny.