Thursday, October 1, 2009

That's Blarney!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Breakfast consisted of the usual corn flakes and bread with butter and jam over which we met Ellen. She was from near Brisbane I think. About 12 hours north of Sydney. The distances are crazy over there. We spent some time looking at the big global map in the sitting room pointing out where we were all from.

I asked Ellen if she wanted to go to Blarney Castle with us that day. We had planed on renting bikes and taking the country road to go out there, but we found out they were 25 Euro for one business day (only 10 in Galway), so that was a definitive no. The bus was 6 Euro round trip. Ellen decided not to go, but parted saying we’d meet up to go out later. Monica, Zach and I ended up missing the bus to get out to Blarney. We were just sitting in the station 15 minutes before departure. I don’t know what happened, but we just missed it. It was a 20 minute ride, so the bus was frequent enough we caught another one 30 more minutes later.

Blarney is a really good set up for tourists. Some places have very little to do except for the main attraction. In Blarney, there is a little town big enough for variety, but the main attraction is the castle. An 8 Euro entry fee for students, it is well worth it. Not only does it include a tour of the castle and blarney stone, but there is a nature walk, lake walk and woods walk. There were evidently caves too, but we missed those.

On the way to the castle we crossed a bridge where I found my fortune! There were wishing coins littering the bottom of the stream, but I’d feel bad collecting people’s wishes. On that same path, Zach and I stopped to read a sign for historical explanation about the castle, which Monica seemed to be bored with choosing imagery over text. When we turned around I saw only her bag sitting on the bank of the river. I thought we might have to rescue poor Ophelia from drowning, but it turned out she was just crouching by the water’s edge snapping photo after photo of light glimmers and babbling creeks.

On the outer wall of the castle was an entrance for a cave used as a water supply when under siege. Water was trickling down the side of the tunnel dug deep into the ground. It got really cramped, but the explorer inside me persevered. I started to feel a bit Closter phobic. Finally, I’d reached the end where I was able to stand, take a picture and crawl back out.

The castle itself was intricate, but a ruin nonetheless. No furnishings, just stone and weeds. A very narrow staircase that was thankfully only one way, led the way to the top for a beautiful view of the countryside and the blarney stone. When I reached the top I saw the way down was to repel down the front of the castle. At least it appeared that way because some workers were using ropes to spray weeds on the outside of the castle. The actual way down was another slightly wider spiral staircase on the opposite side.

Queen Elizabeth I was credited with coining the expression of “blarney”. Kissing the stone by sliding upside down is credited with giving the gift of gab. The germ phobic side of me avoided the tradition, but I snapped a photo of Zach taking part.

On the climb down I saw a signature from an App State graduate written on the wall of the murder hole. It was a little taste of home.

After the castle we decided to take the lake walk, which led us by a field of horses where I coaxed on to the fence for a brief rubbing. Monica attracted a whole pack of colts till the mommy came by and herded them away. We continued down the path adding to my collection of chestnuts as we went. I’ve been collecting them when I can for decorative purposes. I’m itching to decorate something, but refraining from spending any unnecessary money, so I’ve resorted to homemade things. I’ve started a coaster/poster collection from places I go. Halloween is going to be hard, but if the town is decorated enough I should be ok. I don’t even have a bunt pan to make a pumpkin shaped cake this year…withdrawal. The lake was just the average pond, but the Blarney house stood on a hill overlooking it. It reminded me of a haunted house from the Victorian era. It was closed till next spring, so we sat on a bench under a tree for a bread snack.

Once back in Cork, we hiked up to the Shandon area, a historical section of town set back on a hill. Getting there made me think of Cork as the San Francisco of Ireland. The landscape in the south is much hillier than Galway. Shandon was an important center of commerce in the 1860s when Cork had the largest butter market in the world. Most of the shops and cafes were closed when we reached it, but the views were gorgeous. I was even able to capture the “Jesus light” beaming through the clouds over the city.

We stopped back by Supervalue for dinner. We had purchased two bottles of tikka sauce, but only used one, so we just needed some more meat and veggies. I grabbed some ground beef that was on sale and we were out of there. Funny thing is that I later looked at the receipt to find that it wasn’t ground beef, it was lamb, but I actually didn’t taste much of a difference with the sauce.

Ellen had gotten a job in Cork promoting pubs, so she seemed to have the scoop on where to go. She took us to Clancy’s where a duo was performing on guitar. They were alright. We stayed there awhile; long enough for me to see that the portrait on the wall moved. After a period of time the man in the painting would do something like yawn, read a paper, listen to music, smoke a cigar, etc. It was really cool. I want one in my house!!

Monica grabbed kebab on the way back to the Bru hostel. Ellen and I were talking about different things; I specifically remember telling her about “Outback Steakhouse”. Not cause I think Australia is really like that, but because we were talking about the difference between BBQ and bar-b-que. Being that in the States and especially the south it is a sandwich or pork meat and elsewhere it is basically a grilling party. From talking about food, I ended up at Outback. She found it amusing. This whole time Zach was listening to our conversation and commenting although he was walking with Monica. When Monica finished her kebab she made a comment and we all realized Monica had been silent for more than a minute! She always has something to say, but the food had restrained her. It was a comical situation because we all know she talks a lot, but I love it. Her thoughts are provoking and intellectual. When she and Zach get together one of them always seems to play devil’s advocate, usually agreeing to disagree in a friendly way, since both are pretty grounded in their beliefs. I love just listening, but I offer my side of the argument often enough. When we arrived back at the hostel we weren’t quite ready for bed and gazed up at the map of the globe in the lobby for a bit contemplating where in the world we wanted to go next in life. Then it was sweet dreams and goodbye to Ellen who was staying in a different room.

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