Ireland day 2: the North (and a warning)

The second day of our trip got off to a bad start.  I hesitated to write about this part because I don’t want to taint my blog with negativity, but my stat counters show that lots of travelers have been finding my blog, and they should have all the information available before making a choice.

Shane and I were set to cover lots of ground, so I rented a car.  The price for a 10 day car rental seemed to be from €160-200.  However, many of the websites confused me: lots of asterisks and tiny, grey font.  When I found Dan Dooley, I was relieved because it seemed simple, no bullshit, and even though the prices were a bit higher (€255 for 10 days), their website boasted “fully inclusive rates” and under the section Our Promise, they wrote: “All Inclusive Price Guarantee: No Extra Fees Payable Upon Arrival” and “Our Inclusive car rental low prices are just that, we guarantee there are no Hidden Extras charged when you arrive…It is important when comparing discount car hire costs, that you check what’s included as some companies prices do not incorporate the insurance you’ll need or the compulsory additional local charges.”  Pretty good, huh?

Unfortunately, none of that is true.  When we arrived (all paid up and with our reservation printed out), we were told that we had to put a deposit for extra insurance, and then the deposit would be returned to us when we returned the car.  No big deal, right?  Many companies do this.  Except that the deposit was €1,800.  That’s right.  Over $2,000.

Now, precisely because we were on vacation and didn’t want to lose a card or overspend, neither of us had brought a card with that kind of a limit.  Had we been informed of this mandatory extra fee, I would have brought one or chosen a different company.  We were told that our only other option would be an extra charge of €19 per day – that brought us up to an extra €190 for the car!  And to add insult to injury, the woman at the desk was sneering, condescending and rude.  At one point she snidely asked me, “How old are you?  24?” even though she had my license on her keyboard.  Clearly she was trying to make a point and not ask for information.  And, to make matters worse, when I wrote to Dan Dooley about this incident, I got a clipped, recriminating reply.  Obviously I will continue to mail them, but I think that customers should be aware of this hidden fee and the unhelpful attitude that we encountered.  Although they claim to, Dan Dooley does not treat their customers like “VIPs.”

To get back to our happy vacation: so the trip started on a low note, but as we left Dublin, we felt the gloom lifting.

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We had plans to visit Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and two friends.

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However, our day soon took a turn for the worse again with even more car troubles.  Most of you probably realized this, but driving on the other side of the road and driving on country roads was not only different for me, but nerve-wracking.  The roads didn’t seem wide enough for me and I couldn’t get a feel for the width of the car.   Due to this issue and others, driving took much longer than we had anticipated, and we ended up losing even more time that day.  And to make matters worse, Shane’s phone was unable to call numbers in the North and my phone couldn’t get any wifi, so we never met with Maeve and Laura!

On the bright side, though, we had some great weather for the beginning of the day.

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Our luck took a turn for the worse again as we neared Carrick-a-rede rope bridge; the weather worsened as we arrived, and it was shut down.  However, we were still able to go out and take pictures.

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Of course, we couldn’t resist taking a quick selfie!

From there the weather got worse, and we had a couple of hours’ drive ahead of us.  By the time that we got to the Giant’s Causeway, it was freezing and I changed into my wellies and put my hair up just to save my cheeks from being whipped with it!  (Tip: if you are going to Ireland, wellies are must, and so are earmuffs!)

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From there we drove to Donegal.  The weather got nasty during the drive…so bad that we pulled in to a parking lot to regroup.  We decided to get dinner at a nearby spot, The Drift Inn, and wait out the storm.  The restaurant itself was cozy, and it had a sort of nautical lodge decor going on.  We both had salmon and talked about whether or not to tip (even after a year and a half in Korea, it still feels unnatural to me not to leave at least a little something).  The storm had passed by the time we left, so we headed to The Lake of Shadows to stay the night.  The reviews had been mixed, but it was a great place.  The reception staff were incredibly helpful and went out of their way for us, even making phone calls for us and helping us find our way around.  So, despite the stress of that morning, the night ended on a high note.

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