Blarney and Craic

Trip Start May 19, 2010
Trip End Jun 24, 2010

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Flag of Ireland  , County Cork,
Saturday, May 29, 2010

I wake up first, feeling a bit rough. Need water.  I clean up and go down to the lobby to check email.  Matt comes down and I go up to wake up Emily.  It's about 9.  I ask for buses to Blarney; there's a bus that leaves at 10:45 from just across the River Lee.  We realize that Matt doesn't remember anything from the night before.  When Emily comes downstairs, we rent a locker to store our things and walk to the English Market of Cork.  It's adorable.  Butchers, farmers, vendors everywhere we look.  Step into the fish market and fish heads.  Smells like fish.  Everything is fresh.  We order breakfast at the Farmers' Cafe upstairs and are delivered fresh organic eggs, toast, tomatoes, jam, coffee, and homemade ketchup...actually from real tomatoes that you can taste.   Wonderful.  We walk to the bus station a few blocks down and buy tickets and board the Bus Eirann to Blarney.

About 30 minutes later, we arrive in Blarney.  The Blarney Castle is a 5 minute walk from the bus stop, and we pass  by the village square on the way.  It's 8 Euro entry and we walk up to the castle.  It's beautiful outside, probably 65 and sunny.  The Blarney Castle is built on 8 meters of rock, on the bottom of which is the dungeon.  Walking around to the Castle entrance, we find the watchtower, which is oddly shorter than the Castle itself.  We walk into the Castle, immediately to the great hall and then on to smaller chambers and winding up the narrow spiral staircase, where your grip is secured by a rope down the center of the spiral staircase.  The steps get more and more narrow as you ascend.  Finally, after venturing through several castle rooms, we reach the top.  There are sweeping views of the Irish countryside all around us.  Walking up to the Blarney Stone, the stones underfoot are extremely unpredictable.  The group in front of us shrieks while kissing the Blarney stone, bunch of girls.  Easy to see why; it's about a 3 foot gap with nothing to stop you falling down a distance of about a hundred steps but your own grabbing on to side rails and a sweet old Irish man supporting your back.  It's our turn.  I go first, laying down on my back and grabbing onto the metal rails as the Irish man puts his arm on my back and I feel the rush as I tilt my head back and just kiss the stone in front of me.  What if I missed it or got the wrong one!  It sounds not scary, but quite an adrenaline rush.  Emily's next, kisses the stone, and finally, Matt.  Hopefully we've all gotten the gift of gab/eloquence as our kisses should have bestowed upon us. 

Walking downstairs and out of the Blarney Castle, we decide to explore the surrounding gardens.  They're gorgeous, bright colors of flowers, and lead us to the Blarney House.  Amazing, and people actually own it and live there now, though it's open to tours.  We continue walking around the garden and make our way to the rock close, which is natural beauty, but with stories of witches, fairies, and druids along with every rock formation or waterfall.  We exit the Blarney Castle grounds and walk through the gift shop, each buying a postcard or some other memento.  We check the bus schedule, and walk across the street to the Blarney Woolen Mills, because we have 45 minutes before the next bus to Cork arrives.  The Blarney Woolen Mills are stocked with Aran sweaters, Irish linen, wool scarves, wool hats, and any Irish souvenir you could want.  We all make purchases and head back to the bus station, waiting a few minutes before boarding the bus back to Cork. 

Arriving back in Cork, we go back to the hostel to clean up.  We've been told that the Franciscan Well Brewery is worth stopping by, so we head west down the River Lee to the Brewery.  It's quite a spot, but even more remarkable is that we just so happened upon the one day of the year that is the Brew-it-yourself craft brew festival.  Matt and I order a pint from the microbrewery inside first, taking in the beer garden atmosphere and the bartender tells us that we're welcome to free tastings from the craft brewers who would be more than welcome to show off their creations.  After the pints, we go to sample.  We're all immediately greeted by a man from Blarney who makes a berry cider beer from berries grown on his land.  Next, we try an Irish stout.  Then a beer that has fresh chili peppers in it, quite an afterbite.  Next, another apple cider beer, hand-picked and with the texture of a real apple.  Then there's another Irish stout, a dark-chocolate dunkel, and another ale.  We make a few conversations with brewers and take in heady aroma of hops and beer brewing a few feet away from us while one of the brewers gives Matt a bottle of his creation. 

We finally decide that it's not ok to be "tasting" quite so much and go off to get food.  Matt and Emily buy insoles across the street as a relief from all the walking we've done, and we grab dinner.  My dinner is the "from the farm" entree, fresh chicken and vegetables with gravy and mashed potatoes, fabulous.  We make our way down Main St., to St. Patrick's St., and down Oliver Plunkett St. to find the pubs the guys in the Porterhouse told us about the day before.  When we find Scott's, we decide that we don't want to go to a club, and instead opt for pints at the Old Oak.  This pub is architecturally beautiful inside, and doesn't really reveal itself until you walk all the way to the back.  Impeccable timing again, we arrive just after the start of the Leinster-Osprey rugby match.  Emily and I are the only girls there, joined by just 2 others throughout the course of the match.  A rowdy scene, 3 glasses break while we're there.  There's also a bachelor party from South Wales, and the bachelor is dressed as a female cop.  He's clearly blackout.  We watch the entirety of the match there and Emily and I are in awe at the gorgeous rugby players.  We leave after the game and head to another recommendation, completely off the map, the Old Hibernian.  There's a tiny entrance off Oliver Plunkett St., but you walk up stairs to a room the size of an apartment that's like a speak-easy.  Extremely cozy, and what you'd picture a tiny Irish pub to be.  The bartender is charming, as are the people sitting around us, both of which start conversations.  Matt talks to the guys on our left, and Emily and I talk to the guys on our right.  They're in town for the weekend as well, though they're in Cork to see the hurling match taking place tomorrow; Cork vs. Tipperary.  We grab another pint there and leave.  Rather than go to other recommendations, we walk back and decide to make an early night and go to church in the morning.  Bike rentals are closed on Sunday, so our plans to bike to Kinsale may not work, and the guy at our hostel says that there's not a bus there.  We go to sleep early, but are woken up a few times by people coming into the room.

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