- Urbino, Italy - Finding accommodation is always one of the main concerns for a traveler. The Internet has made everything simpler: you can arrange everything from home, take your time to search for advice online and find great deals. This is a great option when staying in one place for a few days, but when it comes to a road trip, booking from home is definitely a restriction: it means you have to follow a schedule each day, you can’t wander around and see where the trip takes you, but it definitely leaves you much more relaxed during the trip.
To have a better experience, we decided to book only the first two nights in Dublin, and then find accommodation as we went – this is definitely one of the privileges of traveling in the low season. Still, I did some research online before leaving, to have an idea of what to expect and how to behave. Since Ireland is well-known for its B&Bs, we were definitely looking forward to experiencing their hospitality; the official Ireland Tourism website sent me three free brochures upon request: one of them was the official B&B guide, which turned out to be extremely helpful during our stay. In addition to recommending us places, thanks to the guide we had an idea of how much we were going to spend: an average double room, en-suite, in October costs 30-35 Euros per person – breakfast included, of course.
Also, I learned, politeness requires you to check in before 6 pm (which is dinner time in Ireland, and, well, you’re basically checking into a home), and this detail absolutely defined our days: we never stayed in the same place twice, and when it was around 4 pm we would start looking for a place, or deciding for a particular nearby destination where to look for accommodation. We generally looked for places on the coast, possibly overlooking the ocean, since that’s where the most developed villages would be and, obviously, we would have the chance to enjoy great fish-based meals there!
Some days we would get lucky: by half past four, we were already in our room, where we would make phone calls, have a much needed shower and get ready for an early dinner. In Italy, you usually dine from 8 pm, but it was great to be able to eat in pubs and restaurants so early: we would have a big breakfast in the morning and skip lunch, which saved us a lot of money in the end, so we were really hungry by that time! Other days, we would be not-so-lucky, and had a hard time finding B&Bs or even hotels available.
Truth is, Ireland is not very populated. Some areas, especially on the west coast, around Galway, are popular tourist attractions, and as much as this ruins the ‘Irish charm’, it also means you have no problem finding places to stay, but when you get to Donegal, for example, you can really have a hard time. Villages are just a few, and they generally consist of only one road, with a couple restaurants or pubs and a B&B, if you’re lucky, so you don’t have many options. Plus, low season means that half of the places are closed! These never ending haunts for a room really ruined some of our days there.
We ended up staying mostly in B&Bs, but the last three nights were spent in three different hotels. The B&B experience was extremely good in some cases, like our stay in Sneem on the Ring of Kerry, when our host Mary was like a mum to us, suggesting us some walks nearby and even picking us up in town after dinner. Other places were not that good, people were not as kind, but maybe that’s to be expected when you’re the only guest and these people are just tired after a whole summer of crazy work.
Still, this was one of the best parts of our trip, and we will always treasure it. Hotels are often very impersonal, and even though we were longing for that after awhile – you’re not always in the mood for chatting early in the morning! – it was really good to feel someway like home when you’re far away from home. When you enter a B&B, you never know who’s going to be your host: one day it was a bizarre, tall man (who thought we were German even if we were speaking Italian to one another), the other it was a young lady who would put so much of her personality in each room. It was fun – seeing how each of these people arranged their dining room, either with creepy old pictures of relatives, or just sweet memories of their deceased husband. We would see all the differences, noticing how the little things are made differently from here to there, and it was beautiful to see how much a house talks about you, so much more when you even let strangers in and decide to make it your job. And it was even more beautiful to get to our home, in the very end.