We left France on the 30th of December, picked the cats up at 15.45 and we were on our way…RD, myself, two cats, two Welsh Terriers and a van crammed so full of stuff we were afraid to open the doors! RD had come up with the ingenious idea of making the Welshies a little cabin in the van, which was piled up so high with pillows and throws (important to us in making a home) that the Welshies could see over the top of our heads!
On we drove through Normandy and Brittany in driving sleet and rain with the cats meowling in the back and us frantically spraying Feliway to calm them down, I had a distinct case of Deja vu, of our journey into France nearly six years ago. On arrival at the port we had to scan all the animals ourselves, due to Covid restrictions. That moment when we had to open the dog cage into which both the cats were snuggled was terrifying, with the smallest gap I could get my hand in and scan them, as RD blocked any escape route as much as he could. The thought of them getting out and being lost at the port didn’t bear thinking about. But all went well and they remained snuggled, albeit stressed in their ‘cat campy’. Someone said to me that I should leave them behind, it’s expensive moving animals what with jabs and vet approval, but that would never be an option for us. We believe that when you make a commitment to an animal you make a commitment as if it were your child and where we go, they go, even if we have to do without. After that we had the distressing job of locking the puppies into cages in the kennels, Harley was so distressed he ripped his bed apart. Distressing for them, very distressing for us.
We had a cabin arranged for which we were truly grateful. The house I had booked to stay for the ten days from leaving Montaigu and travelling to Ireland was bloody awful. It was dirty and the stairs were the ladder stairs that the small French houses are fond of. They were so dangerous, and Harley fell from top to bottom of them. After that RD manafactured a small barrier from wood and bless him he carried them up and down those stairs every night to stop them being stressed and away from us.
The beds were so small we couldn’t even sleep together, there was no oven (which was fun on Christmas day) and no garden attached as promised. It was a pretty town, but as is the norm in France, nothing was going on and it was such an awful place to stay it helped in our resolution to just get the hell out of France.
So when we finally got into our cabin we were so pleased for the clean and comfortable beds and shower and we slept reasonably well until the little man from the restaurant shouted from the loudspeaker at 8am that breakfast was now being served. Poor RD he was exhausted from everything and was in a deep sleep, so it was hardly any wonder that he called the little man something very rude and very insulting!
We arrived in Ireland at 3.30pm on the 31st of December, a meaningful time given the fact that we were starting a new life.
As we pulled out of the port everyone had to provide proof that they had completed the Covid form about where they were going to stay, and we totally confused the Irish port official when we wound down the window of our French van and proceeded to answer him in English. It was refreshing that he just saw my form on our iPad and waived us on. No bureaucracy, no provide a hundred pieces of paper, just a ‘Oh you’re English go on with ya.’ And that was it, we were on the road to our new life in the pouring rain. ‘Welcome to Ireland.’
Despite our worry about the animals we drove on from County Wexford towards County Donegal, through snow and rain, around Dublin, through Northern Ireland, and onwards for over four hours. We marveled at the beautiful Christmas decorations in nearly every town, and RD was so excited when he spotted a fish and chip shop, and a Kentucky Fry, and an Indian takeaway restaurant. I have never seen him so excited by a Tesco, bless him the man is easily pleased!
I sang the ‘Forty Shades of Green’ with tears in my eyes because it’s a song that my dad would sing to me often. I turned to RD and said ‘My dad used to sing that to me.’ To which he replied ‘What in the voice of Pepper Pig?’ And that was it, despite the stresses of the journey and worry about our animals we were both in tears of laughter, my husband is such a sarcastic bastard at times, but he makes me laugh every day.
But then the sat nav decided to have a dicky fit and off we went up, up and up again into the mountains, not on some main roads but by roads that goats would have difficulty navigating. We were climbing so high that our poor little van, fully loaded to the hilt was chugging away, as we got higher there was ice on the small roads, with snow piled either side of us, and sheer drops behind it. I knew RD was afraid, I was afraid: what if it snowed and we got trapped? What if we crashed in the remote mountains with the animals in the car? I found myself noting any houses we went past as the temperature began to plummet, and counting down the kilometers until the road changed. We were really frightened and it was only after we were at our final destination that RD told me that the tires were slipping underneath us. When we descended back onto normal terrain we both agreed that we would not follow the sat nav if it wanted to take us up such treacherous roads again.
Eventually we reached what we thought was our destination using the post code given. But it was just a caravan park, and nothing else. We drove back into the small town nearby at five minutes to midnight and found a crowd of people (I know forget Covid) gathered to hear the old priest ring in the New Year at the church. As has always been my experience we stopped to ask them the way and they all welcomed us and helped us. They even spoke to our landlords dad to get directions for us and gave us the directions for where we needed to be: two hours away, through the mountain pass! Bless the lady who invited us to get the dogs out and ring in the New Year with them. They all wished us well and asked us to go back to visit them in better times, despite RD smacking his head of the steering wheel several times!
Off we went again with their directions, our sat nav and directions that my sister, Beth and brother in law, Aidan, were sending us as we went. We had no internet connection, despite having paid for it, and were well and truly stuck without their help, and as I rang Beth for directions I found myself saying ‘Beth’ as if I were talking to Alexa, she was our personal Alexa for the night. But in all seriousness I know they were worried, the weather was turning bad and RD had been driving for over nine hours now! Due to this he decided ‘fuck it’ and went for it, but in one of the main towns we took a wrong turning and as we turned round we were passed by the Garda. Now this was after midnight when Ireland had just gone into tier five lockdown, Brexit had taken place so our UK driving license’s were technically no longer valid, and we were two hours away from where we were meant to be! Yep! They came back and stopped us!
The young Garda got out of his van, walked over to the French vehicle and asked ‘Can I ask you where you’re going and what your doing?’ I answered and he immediately said ‘Oh your English?’ That was it! We explained our dilemma and he gave us directions and wished us well, telling us to take it easy through the mountains but assuring us it was a main road we would be taking and it was clear. ‘Only in Ireland’ seems to have been a recurring theme since we have got here, if that had been France we would have been there an hour! We both giggled as we drove away because one of the cats had shit in the van, so when RD opened his window he must have thought ”Jesus, that van stinks of shit!’ We, at this point, had gone ‘nose blind’.
Off we went through the mountain pass with the snow topped mountains all around us, lit up by the full moon. It was truly breathtaking, like being in a scene from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and RD’s breath was truly taken away. All he kept saying was ‘Wow Mois, look at this, Wow Mois I can’t believe it’. On one part there was a sign to say that there had been an oil spill, to which RD replied ‘Of course there has! It’s the only bloody thing I haven’t encountered so far, so there had to be an oil spill!’
Eventually we arrived at our destination right out on a peninsular, down windy little roads with crofts either side of us. We couldn’t see the church landmark we were meant to follow and we were absolutely knackered, but hey ho, we kept going, isn’t that what an adventure is about?
After unloading animals and feeding them and settling them down, we fed ourselves and fell asleep sitting up, finally going to bed at 7.30am. That will be a New Years Day to remember.
As our landlord said ‘Sure this will be a story to tell your grandchildren!’ He’ll get no argument there!
Welcome to Ireland.