Westcove

FAQ for US visitors

Yes, this is a LOT to plow through, but have courage! Here are some answers to FAQs. Oh, and they’re in alpha order, since I’m always somewhat obsessive about that. You might want to take this document with you when you come to Westcove, or put it on your tablet; you can get a printable version here.

Charging and using electric appliances (phones, MP3 players, computers, personal care appliances):

  • There are hair dryers in all the bedrooms at Westcove. Once in a while they get moved around, but there are plenty of hair dryers, so you don't need to take one unless you're wedded to your own.
  • There is laundry equipment in each of the properties.
  • If you take a small appliance (curling iron, etc.), make sure it is dual-voltage.
  • If you take any appliance that supplies heat and it is not dual voltage, you will need a converter. There are only two countries in the world which use 110v: the US & Canada; other countries use 220v. So you will need a converter (I always take at least two, just in case) – they are now widely available at drugstores, or you can order them online.
  • Whether your appliance is dual voltage or not, you will need an adapter to plug it into the wall. An adapter is not the same as a converter; the former adapts the plug configuration to wall outlets in other countries; the latter changes the voltage. And you probably know that in Europe wall outlets have switches; the power must be turned on at the outlet as well as on your appliance – a wonderful safety feature. We take several adapters so we can re-charge everything we bring.

Church Services:

  • Catholic: There is one priest who serves at Castlecove, Caherdaniel, and Lohar. Masses are at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays (Castlecove), 9:30 a.m. Sundays (Caherdaniel) and 11 a.m. on Sundays (Lohar).
  • Anglican: there are Anglican (Episcopal) churches in Sneem and Kenmare with Sunday services.
  • There is church information in the books of “house notes” at Westcove House, The Stables, Garden Cottage, and Pier Cottage.
  • At this time, we are not aware of a synagogue or a mosque in the Westcove area, though they are in Cork & Dublin.

 

Clothes (see also “Weather”):

  • Men are unlikely to need ties, though a sport coat might come in handy.
  • Women will not need anything very dressy (i.e., cocktail wear).
  • Layers and a sweater, pashmina, or light jacket will probably be welcome in the evenings. It may be chilly in the daytime (we've been there in November when it's bright and sunny in the day, but you never know), and will be chilly in the evening.
  • Though you won’t need anything truly dressy, it is the custom at Westcove to dress up just a bit for the dinners where we all gather; e.g., slacks rather than jeans.
  • As always when traveling abroad, it is best to blend in, so one doesn't stand out unduly; as well as being polite, in some countries it's a safety feature; not that we worry much about safety in Ireland. There are likely to be many tourists at one or two of the well-known spots, such as Blarney Castle; it's usually better to be inconspicuous. This is the same advice we send to our clients traveling to Italy. It Italy, we always advise - please, no blue jeans (black ones would work) or white sneakers; you'll probably stand out as an "American Tourist," which in the cities is not advisable. You'll see jeans in Ireland, though they're not as ubiquitous as in the U.S. Ireland has a thriving fashion industry, but on the whole it is a less formal country than Italy. Regrettably, nothing is less formal these days than the US - end of editorial comment.

Driving:

  • In Ireland, as in the UK, one drives on the left. The steering wheel is on the right. Most rental cars come with manual transmission; if you want automatic (which you might) specify that when you book your car. Manual will of course be cheaper. I have to admit we do always get a car with automatic transmission.
  • A word of advice: rent the smallest possible car you can live with. Some of our guests have rented a car similar to the one they drive at home, thinking that familiarity with it will ease their driving. Not usually a good plan; Irish roads can be narrow and winding, and are often bordered by stone walls, deceptively covered with vegetation so the walls look like hedges. Stone walls are not friendly to cars! And really, there are usually only two times you need a car that will hold you and all your luggage: on your way from and back to the airport. So buckle up and hold things on your lap at those times if you have to!
  • If you are a member of AAA, check with your local office as to whether there are reciprocal arrangements with auto clubs in Ireland; there used to be, but they may not prevail in 2015.
  • ake sure you bring an International Drivers Permit (not the same as an international drivers license; you don't need one of those, but you do of course need your American driver's license), available at AAA. You will not need an IDP unless you are stopped; in that case not having one could be a problem* - see below.
  • Police in Ireland are Garda (singular) or Gardai (plural and pronounced "Gardee").

Food:

  • Do NOT believe anyone who trots out that old shibboleth that Irish food is either bad or boring or both - it's an uneducated comment. Ireland has many gastropubs with upscale food, and in the cities there are international restaurants. Of course there are also many internationally celebrated chefs there (e.g. Darina Allen, whose famous cooking school is near Cork, or Clodagh McKenna). And yes, you will encounter potatoes - lots. The food is fresh and prepared very well; we certainly long for the seafood chowder at the Blind Piper (see below) when we're here at home. And I'm sure you know there is no longer smoking in restaurants and pubs.

Flights, Customs, etc.:

  • As soon as you know your flight, airline, flight numbers, and arrival airport, please let me know.
  • Be aware that if your return flight to the US is not non-stop to your final destination, US Customs may seize any items you bought in duty-free. You can try packing an item in checked luggage, but some travelers have had such items seized in checked luggage. This regulation is under review, but as of now, it's still in effect. We have not had a problem with items in checked luggage, though we've had our luggage opened by TSA.
  • If you fly from the US to London and then on to Ireland, you will be allowed only one carry-on item, whether it’s a coat, a purse or a carry-on bag, upon leaving the London airport.

Insurance:

  • If you have any situation which might require you either to cancel your trip or to go home suddenly, please consider purchasing trip insurance. Generally your usual insurer (home, car, etc.) doesn't sell it. Your credit card company probably offers it; check to see whether it covers both your Westcove fee and your flight. We used Travelex in 2013 and were pleased with their response when we had to cancel our trip.
  • You will probably also want to check with your health insurance provider about your coverage while in Ireland. We have no experience ourselves with a medical emergency there, but it's best to be safe. Generally countries with universal health care treat you first and ask questions later; some of our clients have experienced that in Italy (their treatment was usually free), but it's wise to know where you stand.
  • Check also with your car insurance or credit card company regarding coverage of your rental car; most US companies don't cover “incidents” when renting a car overseas. Some of our guests have experienced such incidents (as I said, lots of deceptive stone walls in Ireland). At the very least dealing with them uses up valuable time. Consider purchasing the extra insurance from your rental car provider.

Liquor:

  • We suggest buying any hard liquor you plan to consume in Ireland in a duty free shop en route. Such spirits are very expensive there, unless of course they're Irish, and even Irish whiskey prices have risen in recent years. Wine is not too expensive, nor is beer – the supermarket in Kenmare usually has some deals. And you can buy liquor in the supermarket.
  • The French owner of a small boutique wine shop in Kenmare has special prices on cases and, best of all, will deliver to Westcove. His website is www.VGWines.com
  • If your visit is with a Barton House Party, wine is supplied for the three dinners, but alcohol is not included with your fee otherwise.

Money:

  • • There are ATMs (“Cashpoint”) in Sneem & Kenmare; we’ve never seen one in Castlecove nor Caherdaniel. Most shops & pubs will take credit cards, though not always American Express. And you've probably heard that American credit cards are regarded in Europe as rather "quaint" because they don't incorporate the chip and pin system; more secure than typical American cards. (Some guests have found it hard to believe - and unsettling - to realize that the US is sometimes backward technologically, but it's true.) Check with your card issuer to see whether they can supply you with a chip and pin card. If your card has the usual insignia - Visa, Mastercard, etc., merchants are required to take it, but you may encounter a raised eyebrow or two without a chip and pin card.
  • Almost always you'll get a better exchange rate from an ATM than from one of those airport kiosks, here or abroad, which offer to exchange money
  • We hope you'll return! So keep a few euros at home in the US, so you'll have them on hand for your return visit.
  • Passports, legal documents:

    • *As noted earlier, you should get an International Driving Permit if you will be driving. Not a license, it is really a driver’s identity card in many languages. You’ll never need it unless you have a driving “incident;" you may be asked to produce it then, and there could be consequences if you don’t have it. You can get an IDP at an AAA office; it costs about $25. (We've heard of incidents on the continent where failure to have an IDP meant you had to stop driving immediately and pay to have the car towed back to the rental location.)
    • If you’re over 75, make sure you have a copy of your driving record from the DMV and a note from your doctor saying you have no driving impairments. Once again, you’ll probably not need it unless there's an incident. However, in June 2014, the rental agent actually collected those documents from me, to keep on file while I was there.
    • Check your passport. If it will expire while you’re gone, they won’t let you in the country. In some cases they won't let you in if it will expire within six months of your planned entry.
    • And if you don't yet have a passport, start the process of getting one NOW. You will need a birth certificate, so if you can't find it, begin that search process NOW. You'll also need a photo - most photo shops can do the correct one, as can AAA. Go to the US State Department website to download an application. It's a good idea to have a valid passport at all times anyway; one now needs it for travel to Canada & Mexico. Please do not let lack of a valid and up-to-date passport be a problem for you. And don't forget children!

    Phones & Tablets:

    There are several options:

    • If you have a GSM phone which can be used internationally, once you have it "unlocked' ask your provider about wi-fi calling; it is possible all your calls while abroad will be free, as long as you use your phone only where there's wi-fi. If your phone is an iPhone, there may be a charge (per month, but you can get it for just a month; people I know who've done that say it's about $20) for an "international calling plan." What you don't want is international calling that incurs a roaming charge - roaming charges can mount up and give you a rude shock when you return home. We have T-Mobile, which now has free (meaning no extra charge for being abroad) unlimited text and email in 100 countries, and telephone calls are 20˘ per minute. Our cellphone bill last year was exactly the same following our Irish trip as it is every month at home.
    • Every property at Westcove is now wi-fi. Tablets and laptops work in almost all the rooms (there are a couple where the walls are too thick - !!!).
    • If you already have a GSM phone such as an iPhone or an Android, then one option is to get an international Sim card which replaces the domestic card in your phone; I've had them from OneSimCard and Cellular Abroad. Honestly, neither one worked well and I got my money back. However, we have friends who have had great success, particularly with Cellular Abroad (their Sim card is from National Geographic). Calls your US contacts make to you will go through London.
    • You could check with a US provider regarding the possibility of ordering an international phone before you go, or check online for such a possibility (I haven't used it but have visited the website for CelloMobile.)
    • You can often pick up an international phone in the airport once you land in Europe, but the options above seem better choices.
    • As is now true in the US, there are few public phones in Ireland. Best to bring a mobile (as it is called there).
    • Remember to bring your charger! A car charger is also useful when traveling. Voice of experience; I once forgot to take mine along while out for the day - left it back at Westcove - and it was a problem.
    • Of course there are landline phones at Westcove, but there will be a charge for international calls.
    • There is a computer at Westcove in the House, if you need to print boarding passes. However, most smartphones can now provide boarding pass recognition.

    Personal questions:

    • • Please let me know about any food allergies, as well as dietary restrictions. We will try to accommodate these. In recent years, we have noted that many Irish pubs & restaurants can provide gluten-free options.

    A Plea:

    • Please let me know, tout de suite, any birthdays (“significant” or not) or other celebrations which fall roughly in the time frame surrounding our dates.

    Pubs:

    • There is a small, very traditional Irish pub in Castlecove - 1.5k, known as the ‘Black Shop’ (frankly, it's not a favorite with Hugh & me); however, there are 2 pubs in Caherdaniel, about 4k west – ‘Freddie’s’ and ‘The Blind Piper’ - the latter is especially recommended for its excellent selection of home-cooked food and is a long-time family favorite. The Blind Piper also has live Irish music on certain nights.
    • There are many other pubs and restaurants, especially in Sneem and Kenmare, to suit all tastes and budgets; you will find a current list of these, with sample menus, on your arrival.

    Shops:

    • O’Leary’s in Castlecove is 1.5k (5 minutes' drive away), and is open from 9am-8pm, Monday to Saturday and 9.30-6.30 on Sundays. It is well stocked with basic provisions, and is also a petrol station.
    • There are good food shops in Sneem (15k east) and Waterville (15k west); larger ones in Kenmare and Caherciveen - each 45 minutes’ drive away - and 2 very large supermarkets (Tesco), just over an hour’s drive away in Killarney. There are a few gifts/clothes shops in Sneem and Waterville but Kenmare is renowned for its excellent shopping facilities and a very good street market on Wednesdays. Quill's, with shops in both Sneem and Kenmare, is a favorite.
    • For any Anglophiles, there is both a Marks and Spencer and a Boots pharmacy in Killarney, and of course both are also in Dublin & Cork.
    • Should you need one, there is a pharmacy in Sneem, and you probably know that European pharmacists are excellent and professional sources of advice concerning minor medical problems.

    Tipping:

    • In a restaurant or pub, check to see whether service is included. If it is, you don’t have to add a tip, though it’s nice and not uncommon to do so, especially if you’ve been pleased with the service. Americans are rather known for leaving tips, but of course it's your discretion.
    • At Westcove, as at other large estates, it is customary for guests to leave a tip for the staff. We collect it and give it to Katherine at the end of our stay; obviously part of it is for her and she distributes it as appropriate to the others, including her husband Michael and others who have helped. Amount? We have usually collected about €25 for the week, per guest.

    Weather

    • Weather at any one time in Ireland? The Irish will say: “We don’t know!” We've been there in June and have eaten outside on the terrace, but just as here in Washington, weather can be variable. Bring layers, some kind of a raincoat, ideally with a removable liner, and sturdy shoes. (Remember that European temperatures are rarely listed in Fahrenheit measurements, if you're checking weather online.)

     


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