Small, Serene, Spectacular!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2013
Trip End Jun 01, 2013

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Flag of Ireland  , County Cork,
Friday, January 18, 2013

Today was extremely exciting... it was our first trip on our own outside of Cork city! It was a day that we all needed because we've started to get a little stir-crazy being stuck here in the city. Today we left the apartments at 9:00am and headed towards the city to catch our bus at 9:40am. We had the street name and station and were on our way... funny story though, we're still new to this city sooo we didn't exactly know where the street was that we were supposed to be finding.. So, we wandered around a little and finally (a few minutes late) found our bus, still there in the station.. thank goodness! So we got on the bus and started our journey to Kinsale! It was a short bus-ride, maybe 45 minutes, but the ride was beautiful along the way. It was a nice view of the Irish countryside with your typical rolling grass hills, tiny cottages along with cows and horses... basically, the picturesque Ireland that's in all the movies! When we got to Kinsale, we got off the bus and found a visitor center where we all got our touristy pamphlets and maps! Kinsale is gorgeous! It was definitely a breath of fresh air to be in a more quiet environment, as opposed to the rustle and bustle of the city; it was much quieter and more peaceful, which was a great change of pace for all of us.

So, first we decided that we'd hike up the mountain/hill up to Charles Fort. It was a nice mile and a half hike up and around the winding roads and trails! On our way, we encountered a lot of Irish people walking the path. In particular, we met a cute little old lady and her dog. The dog was very playful, but also very scared of humans it seemed haha so while the dog was running circles around us, we talked to the little old lady. She was a resident of Kinsale and had lived here for quite a while. She asked if we came to Kinsale often, as it is a lovely place to visit on the countryside. She asked us where we came from and why we were in Ireland, and overall she was just a very sweet woman! Then, when the dog began barking she spoke to it as if it were her child, and it immediately ran back to her side.! This was a lovely stop, but we had to continue our hike. On the road/trail we passed adorable houses one minute and the next minute it was as if we were going through a rainforest! So we kept walking and finally reached the top about 15 minutes later!

At the top we came to the fort, Charles Fort. When we got to the fort, we went to reception to pay our 2 euro entrance fee. While there, the receptionist-- a very nice Irish lady-- explained the history of the fort. The fort was constructed in the late 17th century, and when looking from above, it can be seen that it is somewhat in the shape of a star (a classic fort type apparently). It is one of the largest military forts in the country and has been associated with many events in Irish history including the Williamite War and the Irish Civil War. She mentioned that it was a fort for British soldiers during many occassions and pointed out the many parts of the fort including the barracks, prison (which we were standing in), hospital, supply rooms, along with many others! We were now free to roam the fort! It was extremely cool to be walking around in the fort, there were soo many different buildings and the view to Kinsale and our on the water was absolutely awe-inspiring! We took this opportunity to take as many cool and fun pictures as possible! We went into all the buildings we could and took tons of pictures, it was so much fun! At one point, my friend Kayla and I found a dark room/hole in the wall off of an alley, so naturally, we had to explore! We took out three iPhones, turned the flashlights on and attempted to see what was inside. When we couldn't actually see, we just walked in and took a chance! It was just an empty room, but it was huge, and it had writing on the wall (which we couldnt read or understand). Still, it was pretty cool! (Thanks Daddy for your sense of adventure and spontaneous like nature haha). Then we explored the barracks and a few other rooms, until we finally made our way back to the beginning! At this point we were all STARVING, so we were ready for lunch! Naturally, all of my friends are afraid of talking to people, so I asked the receptionist for recommendations on where to go. (P.s. I am now the official appointed people-person of our group). She gave us a few options and we kept them in mind as we headed back to the city-- an easier walk now that we were heading downhill for most of it! When we finally made our way back to the city, we walked around, checking out each of the menus at the restaraunts! When my friends were still unsure, I again took it upon myself to find some nice locals to help us out! So I found a cute little old couple and asked for their assistance in picking a place for lunch! In talking to them it turns out that they were originally from the United States, Minnesota, and have been living in Ireland for 10 years now. They spend nine months out of the year in Ireland, and travel to the US for three months to visit their children and grandchildren every year. They asked the three of us (that had approached them) where we were from, where we went to school, etc. It turns out that the man knew of Quinnipiac (specifically, our hockey team!), but said that it seemed like a nice University! The couple was extremely kind and very chatty! They recommended places to visit in Ireland and finally places for us to eat lunch! We thanked them and wished them well, and finally found Dino's, a traditional Fish and Chips restaraunt. It was so cute inside, set up somewhat like a boat! It was quiet and nice. Now, I don't like fish, so while a majority of our group got fish and chips, I got cajun chicken on a ciabatta bun :) It was SOO GOOD! It had some special sauce on it that made the sandwich really really good. By the end of the meal, I was SO FULL. So we sat there for a little bit and let our food digest, while also waiting for our check... it's takes the Irish 500 years to bring the check, so you have to be patient haha. Finally, we had a quick bathroom break, and were ready to explore again!

After lunch we headed out to the center of town (which wasn't very far because it's small!) We walked around a bit and found a lot of colorful buildings, and one street in particular with extremely colorful buildings, literally neon-like colors! It was soo cool! There was a jewelry store on the corner, and as weird as it sounds, we met another person originally from America! She worked at the store and had lived in Ireland for about 7 years (if I remember correctly..) She was originally from NJ, met an Irish man on a trip to Ireland in Limerick, Ireland, got married and moved to Ireland where she now lives! It was really cool, and really weird all at the same time! She had a lot of great advice about studying here and was very excited for all of us :) After we left this store we did a little more exploring in random shops throughout the small town. Everything was gorgeous and it was soo cool to look at! At one store, I picked up a postcard.. I am planning to get a postcard from every town/city I visit. Kinsale...check! Finally, it was nearing 3:45, and we were ready to catch a bus home. We went back to the bus stop and boarded our ride back to Cork.!

When we reached Cork, it had begun to get dark and a little cold, so we stopped quickly in a hot chocolate cafe. AMAZING. This cafe makes hot chocolate out of legitimate chocolate chips melted down and mixed with milk. There are so many flavors and it's crazyyyy good! I just got milk chocolate this time, but I will be trying others when we go back! So we all got our hot chocolates to go and started the walk back to campus! It was a long day and we were tired. Time to rest up because tomorrow starts a brand new day... tomorrow we'll be heading to Cobh! Goodnight!
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