Everyone loves a little adventure. I jumped at the chance to escape from my day job for the week and headed for the hills of Donegal. Villa Rose Hotel was my home for the past six days and I was well looked after. Although I’m not in a position to discuss the exact details of the job in question, the work was intense, but refreshing. On Friday, I had the opportunity to venture on a little road trip. Now, I’ll have you know, I have a terrible sense of direction. I’ve only met one person in my life that is worse and that’s my dear friend Brónagh. We spent a summer in Spain together and I had to learn our whereabouts for both our sakes and safety!
The first turn I took after exiting the hotel was the wrong one, of course. I used Google maps and did a full circle of the town. Eventually, I was on my way. An overwhelming sense of nostalgia took over as I entered An Ghaeltacht. As a teenager, I used to spend three weeks every summer in Irish colleges in Galway and Clare. My favourite had to have been Carraigaholt in Co.Clare. It was my first time away from home and I was the tender age of 11. Three weeks of freedom. Siúlóid gach lá go dtí an trá agus De Sathairn chuig an sráidbhaile. Céile mór gach oíche – boys one side of the room and girls on the other. Hormones running wild and your summer love trying to cop a feel… over your bomber jacket, efforts in vain.
On the way I realised I was low on petrol. I pulled over and asked a friendly, weather-beaten, toothless man (well, he had the total of three crooked top teeth, sin é) if there was a petrol station nearby. He informed me that I had just passed the nearest station, 5 miles back. So I had two options: go back 5 miles or continue 12 miles towards my destination. I said I’d chance the 12, as I’d an important meeting at 10am. I spotted the glint in his eye as he said ‘Good luck!’ It was almost as if he knew my fate.
I sped on over the hills and winding roads, never needing a petrol station so badly. A lone magpie flew passed my bonnet and I waved it away. The scenery was magnifique, but I couldn’t stop to take it all in. On I went and pulled over to ask a lady if I was nearly there. 8 kilometres more she said. Sensing I was panicked, she gave me an alternative route that would take 5k. I chose the latter and on I drove on the narrow, country roads.
The inevitable happened, as it too often does. My baby Fiat500 conked.
I checked my phone, I certainly wasn’t going to make it for 10am. Fortunately, another eldery man was approaching in a jeep of some description and I waved to him for help. The petrol station was only about 200 metres around the corner. He asked if I had a jerrycan… of course I did! This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this predicament. It has come to be a far too regular occurrence and Jerry has become a reliable friend in my hour of need. Some may think I’m foolish, but I’m a risk taker and reckon I subconsciously enjoy that adrenaline rush or sense of adventure… ‘will I make it?’ Or perhaps it’s an inherent Irish quality: ‘sure won’t it be a story to tell?’ As well as a jerrycan, baby wipes are a necessity when on the road.
He offered me a lift seeing as I was in a bit of a rush, but don’t worry, there was another car as witness behind him. I like to think I’m very street smart, although my boyfriend would disagree. Problem solved within a matter of minutes. Thomas Mullen was my saviour this time around. I think that was his name. Off I went and here’s what I was faced with. If you’re lost… any road will take you there, isn’t that what they say? As much as I love the place, you would only find this in Ireland. Two roads diverged and luckily I took the right one!
It was a glorious, summer’s day. One of the best yet this year. My appointment was better than expected and more. I work with students and this week has restored my faith in Ireland’s youth. They are full of possibility and positivity. It was a fabulous day for a road trip and some precious time to myself. On the way home, I got to do some sight seeing and had an end of week treat at Lough Eske Castle. Donegal certainly is vast and varied, but a common thread is that the people are very friendly and welcoming.