Ah, put a Cork in it.

In Dublin’s Fair City – Day 6 – Blarney Castle, Rock of Cashel, and Cork

An now for something completely different from my last post – something a lot lighter in tone.

It was another day and another early morning start to catch a tour bus out of the city. We had to meet at 6:30 AM in the city centre. Bleh.

I was half awake and trying to navigate up to the obviously-named “Old Stone Church.” that might work in the U.S. – how many old stone churches could there be in one town? – but in Dublin, that’s like saying, “meet at the pub.”

With a bit of Googling, I sorted out that it was the Old Stone Church and Tourist Centre, which would make sense as a meeting point. I milled in a random circle and waited for the guide to come get us. In the mean time, some guys were entertaining themselves with selfies at the Molly Malone statue (her chest looks like it’s been a bit, erm, polished over time).

Statue of Molly Malone

One guide came by, yelled something about the Cliffs of Mmmumble Mumble (later I realized he’d said, “Cliffs of Moher”), and some people walked off. The rest of us stood around in confusion – some of them hadn’t heard the announcement, and those of us going to Blarney were like, “whhhhaaaa?”

Ugh, trying to organize half-awake humans at 6:30 AM, likely without most of us having any sort of caffeine, is like herding lemmings. Our brains can’t process instructions, you really have to shout, and we just follow you if you look official. In this case, a badge made you official. Cool, just tell us to get on a bus, and we won’t ask any questions.

Also, for some reason, people thought I knew the answers because I had a voucher for the tour. However, asking me questions was about as useless as trying to wish upon on a three-leafed shamrock. I had the functioning capacity of the DMV sloth in Zootopia. I spoke haltingly and had no idea what was going on. I just wanted the magical guy in the badge to reappear and tell me I could get on a bus. The right bus, hopefully.

I will never claim to be a morning person. It’s not a talent I possess.

I was half conscious on the bus seat as we putted out of Dublin proper, and the driver gave us a run-down of the day, sights along the way, and some Irish history. The day was shivery with the possibility of rain, and it had been plopping down here and there during the night and early morning. It hardly felt like July – but then again, nothing will quite feel like July when you live in Hong Kong and it’s a blazing 90’F+ most of the summer (and fall, I’ve come to find).

When we stopped at a roadside station, I grabbed a few snacks and walked a few circles just to wake myself up. I did not get a coffee, as we still had quite a drive to our first tour stop, and Lord help me if I have to use the toilet. I lose my teacher bladder over the summer months, when I’m no longer required to wait until breaks and then hoof it down the hall to the teacher bathrooms. Or, let’s be honest – the moment there’s another adult in the classroom, albeit even for 30 seconds, we’re running out the door to the toilet and yelling, “watch my class!”, before they get a chance to say otherwise.

Last summer, I nearly cried with joy when we finally arrived at the Manchester, England, train station after a long drive with an overfull bladder – and an obscene amount of potholes to drive over. I counted them. Every bump put me into a state of panic. I jumped out of the car before we’d even parked it in the lot and ran toward the closest toilet – Caffe Nero.

Praise be for coffee shop toilets and free toilets where you don’t have to pop in coins whilst doing the potty dance.

Our first location for the day was the impressive Rock of Cashel, a beautiful half-ruined cathedral atop a vantage point hill. It beamed its stony eye on the small cafes and shops and town below, but one look out from its graveyard revealed even more of the emerald hills of County Tipperary. I know I shouldn’t be surprised at the level of green-ness in Ireland, but I’ve never seen so many shades of green. All 50 shades of it, to be more exact.

Through the church door

Rain threw itself at us in random spitting matches, just enough to leave watery dashes on my camera lens. It took persistence in wiping it off, but I was able to capture some of the detail of the cathedral. The various structures range from the 12th to 13th to the 15th century. So, oldest, older, and just old. I was most enchanted by the mossy Celtic cross grave markers, which stood sentry over the jade-green countryside.

Here’s a good tip – when the others go inside to watch the video on the cathedral’s history, explore the ruins. That way, there is almost nobody in the cathedral, and you can watch the film later. I could get pictures without the random head in them. Or hand. Or obligatory couple taking a selfie every two steps.

After exploring the grounds, we wound our way back to the bus. I was aching for a coffee, but many of the little cafes under the Rock were still closed for the day. Fortunately, though, our early start meant that we missed the insane crowds that were booked in later. Like, 40 coach-loads worth.

From the Rock of Cashel, we continued our merry way to Blarney Castle and the city of Cork.

What I wouldn’t admit at the time was that I didn’t intend on kissing a rock. I just wanted to see the castle. As friends and family will attest, I don’t need the gift of gab. Or eloquence. I’ve probably got too much of it. Now, if you told me that kissing the Blarney Stone meant that I’d magically lose weight, get free, unlimited travel for life, or that a gorgeous British duke would appear before me (or any title, really), I’d kiss it until they had to pull me away.

Since it had rained, the stairs up and the platform itself were rather slippy and cold. Instead, I went inside some of the old rooms of Blarney. But, there was quite a crowd waiting to make out with the stone, and I really didn’t want to wait in the queue. I figured there was more to see around the castle before we had to leave.

Blarney has some gorgeous grounds that are worth spending time in. The gardens and the little “rockery” and “jungle” are interesting. The poison garden was fascinating! Definitely look and not touch, and certainly don’t take a sample with you. There were cascading streams, knitted tree cozies on some of the trunks, and flowers bursting everywhere. I loved the gardens. And no, I didn’t kiss the stone. Maybe another time when I feel like I’ve lost the ability to chat the day away.

I wandered into the shops by the roadside, enjoying the beautiful wool stoles and jumpers available. Whilst I live in Hong Kong, and for the most part, wool is the most insane thing to wear, I found it hard to resist the colours. When sense triumphed over buying something I wouldn’t wear (winters barely get below 50’F), I went in for the Irish whisky marmalade and some Guinness toffees. At least those I could fit into my fattened suitcase.

After herding in the tour group, we rocked up in Cork for lunch. There wasn’t a great lot of time to explore the city, so we settled in for a hearty pub lunch and drinks. I went in for the Beamish – the local dark stout – and a massive burger. I love pub burgers in Ireland. They’re enormous, juicy, and full of the good stuff – all the trimmings. If you tell me you dipped it in Guinness and rolled it in onion straws and threw some bacon and rocket on top, I’ll order that, no questions asked.

River Lee, Cork

I gave in and found a place for an extra shot cappuccino after eating lunch. I needed caffeine. It was pretty nonnegotiable at that point if people wanted to make it past the next few hours of bus travel back into Dublin.

We arrived in Dublin after 7 PM, and, after a long day out, I settled in for several cups of hot, milky tea at the flat and all but collapsed into the sofa.

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