Greetings from Kilkenny and Cork
Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
29Trip End Oct 11, 2008
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Today we learned that Dublin is not the sunny, pleasant hotspot that yesterday made it out to be. It is cold. It is rainy. In fact, the rain has the ability to hit you hard and in the face, no matter which way you try to turn your head. BUT we only had 2 days in Dublin, so we had to make this one count. Alas, we set out with our rain gear and tennis shoes (I quickly found out that mine are far from waterproof). Our first stop was the Christ Church Cathedral. We ducked in for some sanctuary from the rain and wind, but discovered that there is a 6 euro fee just to enter the church. We left and headed to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Beautiful on the outside, so we ducked in again. Same story. So, we slowly moseyed up to the cash register, soaking up views of the church interior as best we could. Reaching the cash register, we had successfully seen about 50% of what there was to see, and we scurried out the door with mumbled excuses.
Next, we headed to the Guinness Store House for a tour of their museum and a pint of Guinness (supposedly the best pint you'll find in the world - Guinness doesn't travel well). The pint was served in a bar at the top of the museum/brewery with 360 degree views of the city. Need I say more? It was nice. After enjoying our pints and drying off in the "gravity bar", we hurried over to the Dublin Castle and caught the last tour of the day. It serves as a kind of Irish Whitehouse today but was built in the 11th century by Vikings who conquered the Celts of the day. A tour guide pointed out the interesting old art and history of the building.
We trudged back to the hostel, picking up a package of noodles on the way. After dinner and a couple hours of R&R we headed over to the temple bar area for our first night of European mayhem in the Temple Bar area. Apparently this is the epicenter for "stag and hen parties" of Ireland, meaning groups of wasted girls dressed up in skimpy costumes and groups of singing, bombed Irishmen in women's dresses and wigs. I don't get it but I also wasn't complaining. We settled on a packed pub with great live Irish music and had a few rounds of drinks. We topped off the night with a drunken kabob (spicy, juicy, delicious mystery meat jammed into a fresh pita with some peppers and onions on top - why we don't have these in the states I will never know) and merrily passed out in our small, overcrowded hostel room.
Ok, enough with this day by day playback. We'll just tell you the one long story that is our Euotrip.
On our third day in Ireland, we headed to Kilkenny. But first we had to pick up the rental car. On a map, the Europcar's Dublin office looked very close to our hostel. We were wrong, and the weather was unforgiving. After a 1+ mile trudge through rain and biting wind (with all of our Europe possessions in tow), we were quickly shoved into a car - an assbackwards car by all US standards. After we both tried to get in the wrong side of the car (Nissan Primera, if you care), we finally settled in (Ryan driving, me clutching my passenger seat on the left side of the car). We took a few moments going over hypothetical scenarios and what our reactions should be. Then we had to make the plunge - into downtown Dublin. It was scary. Very scary. Dublin is a crowded place with many cars. The lanes are tiny and we had no idea what we were doing. For a few minutes, we screamed every time a car came toward us. Ryan admirably overcame the urge to jerk our tiny car onto the right side of the road. He did pretty well - I sure didn't want to try it (and wasn't insured to). With the minor exception of hitting a parked car ("I only clipped the mirror!" he claims) and scuffing a few curbs.
We drove through the Wicklow Mountains (from Dublin to Kilkenny), a scenic drive filled with sheep, green rolling mountains, and terrifying one lane roads (for 2 lanes worth of traffic). We stopped at Glendalough, a monastery founded in the 8th century. It was beautiful, and it really made us realize just how new the US is compared to almost everything here. We'll let the Glendalough pictures speak for themselves.
We made our way to our hostel for the night - Foulksrath Castle, an 11th century castle-made-hostel situated between the tiny town of Ballyragget and Kilkenny. We had dinner in a café recommended to us by the castle's owner. We walked in, and the owner/chef/cashier/waitress greeted us with, "I have lamb, beef, or turkey tonight. What would you like?" We had the lamb, and it was delicious. By this time, I was running on empty and getting sick to boot, so we made our way back to the hostel. After a few hours of talking with the 2 couples we shared a room with (a laid back pair from Australia and a friendly and passionately liberal pair from Oregon), we passed out cold.
In the morning, after a breakfast of instant oatmeal and fruit, we checked out the sights that Kilkenny had to offer. We explored the outside of St. Canice's Cathedral (and a bit of the inside - we pulled the whole look around before you get to the cash register deal). Then we took a tour of Kilkenny Castle - we actually paid for that one. Unfortunately we cannot show you the inside of Kilkenny Castle as they made us surrender our camera at the entrance. You can see the outside and know that the interior has been renovated to its Victorian splendor.
When we arrived in Cork, we found our hostel (with the completely essential help of Ryan's Tomtom) and finally found a place to park. We share a room with 4 other fairly unfriendly people, but there are many friendly kiwis and Americans in the common area who are fun to hang out with. We failed in our attempts to go to a fun pub last night. The pub that a hostel worker recommended to us ended up being filled with a crowd of 65+ gray haired patrons.
Today we headed to Blarney castle in the rain yet again (we have barely seen sunlight since our 1st day in Dublin). We actually enjoyed one of Europe's oldest tourist traps and have supposedly been instilled with the gift of gab. We climbed the very narrow, very steep steps of the rundown castle to wait in line to kiss the Blarney stone. Now, one does not just kiss the Blarney stone. One must be lowered down backwards by a very handsy old Irishman who is "trying to find if you are ticklish" and "trying to see just how you kiss." A little weird. After kissing the stone, along with the other million tourists filled with germs, we explored the rock gardens at the castle and returned to Cork. We made our way to the Cork English market, a place of fresh fruit and veggies, cow tongues and pigs' feet, wonderful cheese, and a lot of character. We bought our dinner for the night (marinated pork chops, potato salad, goat cheese tart, and a mixed berry tart for dessert - at only E13 total!). Now here we are, down the street, illicitly drinking hard cider from our Nalgene in a cheap internet café. Maybe tonight we will have better luck with finding a fun pub.
Tomorrow we will head off to the Dingle peninsula. As the Irish say, "May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head. May you be forty years in heaven before the devil knows you're dead." Stay tuned.