We first visited Ireland in the summer of 2007, armed with a tent and a very minimal budget. At the time, Ireland was at the heights of its Celtic Tiger success, which meant that we had to count every Euro so that we could enjoy our three week adventure in a very expensive country to visit.
Jet-lagged and road-weary, we stopped at a gas station on a rural road and ventured inside, hoping against hope that something reasonably decent to eat could be found inside without blowing our backpacker budget on the first day.
To our utter surprise and delight, a full deli was at the back of the tiny store: sandwiches made to order (with a variety of breads, real turkey, chicken, and a wide variety of what the Irish refer to as “salad”, i.e. veggies to go on your sandwich), hot foods like rotisserie chicken, beef pies and sausage rolls.
We devoured our sandwiches, figuring this was some kind of anomaly we had luckily stumbled upon.
Never so happy to be wrong in our lives.
We learned that signs reading Spar, Mace, Centra (among many others) at pretty much any store or gas station anywhere in Ireland led to magical places where you could eat decent, real food at a fraction of restaurant prices.
Eating a Spar turkey sandwich has become one of our small pleasures on our subsequent visits to Ireland.