"The great advantage of having an ancestry like that of a mongrel dog is I
have so many ancestral homes to go home to."

UNDER THE SPELL
A travel tale by Danny O’brien

We caught the ferry from Le Havre, France to Ireland, land of my ancestors. Every since I was
a wee lad, my mind has been used as a canvas by every Irishman who has been displaced
from the Emerald Isle. A picture of quaintness bordering upon myth. Cute I thought it would
be, but never as much as the tourist hype I had read. I donned my suit of armor constructed of
cynicism, forged by age. Protected thus from the hype, I the ancestral child would see Ireland
as it really is. Mind you, no tourist hype for me.

The ship pulled in to Rosslare Harbor near Wexford and lowered its gangplank. I made it most
of the way down before I was sucked clean out of my armor into, head over heels, and under
the spell of the Emerald Isle.

We had arranged for a rental car, to be picked upon arrival at the harbor. I thought perhaps we
would be shown how to operate it. Instead the attendant said in his sweet Irish brogue, "It\'s
the wee red one over there," and handed me the keys.

Still dazed by the sudden entrance in to "The Spell" we sped off in our wee red Ford Fiesta.
Every so many hundred yards along the road signs reminded us to "Drive to the left." On the
open road it was no problem, however moments later in the congestion of Wexford I was near
panic, yelling at Travis to help remind me what side of the street I was on. It didn\'t help that
he often mixes left and right up in his mind, some sort of hereditary functional disorder. I
almost broke out in sweat when I had to make my first right turn feeling as though I was going
head on into the oncoming traffic.

By the time we got through Wexford I was in desperate need to stop for a wee pee. I saw a
small side road and took that hoping to find a secluded spot to relieve myself.

I discovered that when you leave the main roads in Ireland you are almost immediately
secluded. We stopped in front of an old abandoned barn made of stone with an unusual door
shaped like a horseshoe. The earth smelled wet and fresh and was a bit boggy, more
so when I departed. It was only a few hundred yards before we learned our first rule of driving
in Ireland. One must share the road with all other life forms. In this case a herd of very big fat
black and white milk cows. First in front of us and soon all about us. The rear end of the heard
lead cow was in front of the car, walking down the center of the road in a very leisurely
manner, lots of large bovine eyes were peering through the side windows. Patience is
definitely a virtue when driving in Ireland. Never, never be in a hurry to get anywhere. The
roads are almost all narrow and two lanes but the surfaces are quite good and it is
a pleasure to drive without feeling separated from your surroundings. Any less separation at
this moment and we would have been up to our noses in cowtits.

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One of the mysteries of Ireland is how such a small country can be so big. We arrived at
Rosslare Harbor at two thirty in the afternoon and managed to drive the total distance of thirty
five long miles before seeking shelter for the night in Slieveroe near Waterford. The whole of
Ireland is ninety miles across by one hundred miles long, yet the thought of driving across
Ireland in one day would be unthinkable. We would contemplate driving on to another location
only to decide that it would be too long a journey for one day, then check the map to discover
that our destination was the huge distance of fifty four miles.

A great part of the mystery was solved when we realized that the purchase of the wonderful
Michelin No.405 map of Ireland contributed to this illusion. The map scale is 1 inch equals
6.30 miles.