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John Carey, Tour Guide Extraordinaire

This entry is part of a series, Ireland 2009»

John Carey

I’ve mentioned John Carey, our driver in Ireland, quite a bit the last few posts. Time to pay him his due in writing. The short version: He did a phenomenal job for us, and we’re grateful for his active assistance in forging strong memories during our trek.

I’ve known John for a few years now. I first heard of him when a colleague gave me John’s card. (Thanks, Harvey!) I was preparing to travel to Limerick to deliver a couple weeks of training classes, and this friend of mine gave me some of the best advice I’ve received in my life. He said, “Don’t stay in Limerick, stay in Adare. And contact John to see if he can drive you around while you’re there.”

Well, of course I filed the card and forgot about John completely. I would claim it was an honest mistake, made in the heat of the moment. I certainly didn’t intend to forget, but all the details drove the idea of a driver clean out of my head. I did manage to reserve a room at the Dunraven Arms, though; that part I got right!

So the first morning I’m due to go to the plant, I make breakfast just as it’s opening. I gobble down my food, nervous and excited as I was about the new classes, and then my driver showed up; I’d asked the evening before at reception, and they had booked him for me.

No, it wasn’t John. And it wasn’t that pleasant a ride. Not unpleasant, exactly; this unnamed hack driver did a passable job, all in silence. Not unfriendly, like, just quiet. Like a tomb.

THEN I remembered John Carey, and I began to madly dig through my computer case for his card. No dice. Lost it, tossed it, or just plain ol’ left it behind…

Our Cart

That afternoon I was chatting with the security guard at the gate into the factory. I asked if he could call me a cab for the ten-minute ride back to the Dunraven Arms in Adare. He said sure, anybody in particular? I asked if he knew John, and he said sure, is that who I wanted? I nodded, the guard called, and the rest is history.

John has an engaging smile, not politician-wide but open and honest, and he was there within minutes to gather me up. Unlike other cabbies I saw that afternoon, he hopped out of his car and came in to the security checkpoint and asked for me by name. We moved out to his waiting cab and away we went. I was immediately taken with his professional approach to driving, even if he had to suffer though the vagaries of driving on the wrong side of the road, and negotiating the ubiquitous roundabouts full of big lorries, gypsy caravans and fast cars, all of whom were also tearing about on the wrong side of the road. If I hadn’t already had a hardened constitution from riding in cars in China, Singapore and Malaysia I’m sure I’d have fainted dead away.

John took it all in stride, as if he did it every day. He was pleasant to chat with as well, not intrusive or overweening. When he learned it was my first trip to Ireland, he asked if there might be some sights I’d like to see. Naturally, I hadn’t a clue yet. So he made a couple of suggestions. Unlike other cabbies I’ve talked with over the years and around the world, he didn’t push to be the one to take me to those sites.

So I asked the key next question: Was he available to cart me about, morning and evening, to and from work? And maybe, on the weekend, to a couple of those Irish wonders he’d mentioned?

He allowed as how he could schedule me in.

I began to look forward to seeing John each day. He proved to be exceptionally punctual and reliable. The one occasion he got trapped on the wrong side of Limerick at the time he was due to collect me, he called his “working partner” Pat, who was at the plant on schedule with an apology from John. I was a bit disappointed; not in John, as I know these things happen when you drive for a living. Rather, I knew I’d miss our usual end-of-day natter. Pat held up his end, as best he could, and likewise got me home to the Dunraven (and their pub) in good order.

After that trip, whenever I was in Limerick area I called John, and he worked me in. His rates were always good, and he made the billing easy for my expense accounting. Without realizing it, John became more than a service provider; he became a good friend. He became part of the difficulty with leaving Ireland, in fact. I always missed him, a bit.

Fast-forward to 2007. I found myself in Ireland for four grueling weeks, suffering through mounds of pub grub and endless pints of Guinness. It was tough, I tell you. My birthday was looming, and I’d already been out of the country more than I’d been home that year. I mentioned to John that I was missing my wife (don’t tell her, she’ll get a swelled head), and he suggested I fly her over for a week. I mentioned that she worked, but then I remembered she had been storing up her vacation days because her work was so intense at that time. So I called her that evening and told her to pack her bags and tell her boss she was gone, the tickets were on their way by email.

John picked Paula up at Shannon airport and we spent a magical five days in Adare. There was a fair going on, and the Irish Open Golf Championship was being played at the Manor’s new course. Adare’s population swelled from 2,000 to over 10,000 for the weekend, and there was so much to do and see. Good weather didn’t hurt anything. It was a fine birthday weekend, and I could blame it all on John.

I didn’t go to Ireland in 2008, but I did promise to take Paula back “in the future.” The planning and scheming began in earnest, and the next thing I know, John’s booked and ready to take us touring. It was a natural fit, as they say. We began in Dublin and headed south, through Wicklow, to Waterford; the next day we went through Kilkenny and Cashel to Adare. Once settled in Adare, John took us on day-trip tours of Lough Gur; the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren; the Dingle Peninsula; Kinsale and south Cork county; the Ring of Kerry; Limerick and surroundings; and finally, through Birr and Tullamore, on the way back to Dublin.

White House Restaurant, Kinsale

Reading back over the posts you can see how integral John was to the success of our trip. If you’re going to Ireland and you want a customized tour, I heartily recommend you contact John Carey. You’ll not be disappointed. We’re already thinking about how much we need to save up before we can go again! There’s so much of Ireland yet to see, and you can be sure we’ll book John to show it to us…

Enjoy the (Fantastic Ireland Touring) Heat!

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2 comments to John Carey, Tour Guide Extraordinaire

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