Thursday, July 16, 2015

A bunch of blarney, I mean baloney...

Thursday dawned a bit dreary, which, considering our present location on the globe, was hardly surprising.  Although not surprising, it did not make it any more welcome.  Our first stop of the day was the world famous Blarney Castle.  As we arrived the sun was deceptive and misleading, and assuming it would come out I made a poor wardrobe choice.  As many of you know, I am not a fan of shoes, so I wore my Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers (Sanuk is Thai for "fun").
They are the closest shoe to not wearing shoes I have ever found, and their tag line is "They're not shoes, they're sandals" - so it's pretty accurate advertising from my point of view.  Possibly the best shoe purchase I've ever made, but anyway, enough on my love of Sanuks. Shortly after our entrance into the castle grounds it started to mist a bit, and eventually to rain.  We got some lovely photos of the outside and then decided we'd better go take our tour of the inside.

Your tour is basically just you waiting in line to get to the roof of the castle, where the Blarney Stone is located.  We made our trek up the tower and to the stone itself, which we did not kiss due to sanitary reasons (you should have seen the group of high school students in line in front of us), coupled with the rain; it was very disappointing to behold such a famous "stone".  To be honest, I feel as though it is a well concealed joke on the tourists. According to their brochure, "Its powers are unquestioned but its story still creates debate."  I guess Heather and I will never know if kissing the stone makes one grow eloquent, it was a risk we were both willing to take.
To kiss the stone you lie on your back and tilt your
head backwards, the gentleman in the corner of the
photo helps you.
 Personally, if kissing the Blarney Stone is on your bucket list, I would encourage you to re-think that one's presence on your list.  Despite the rain, there were some nice views from the roof, and I'm sure on a sunny day it's even more spectacular.  There are several gardens on the estate, including Ireland's only Poison Garden, so on a nice day there would be lots to see and do, as they also have several walks (some of which are over an hour long).
L: View from the castle roof.  R: Blarney House
 Blarney House, which is inhabited by the current owners of the castle & grounds, is incredibly lovely.  You can take a tour, but you have to pay extra and I didn't feel as though it would be as impressive inside (seeing as it is occupied).  In lieu of the tour we decided to head to the cafe to dry off a bit and wait out the rain burst.  We enjoyed some hot chocolate and a pastry in the stables (don't worry, the stables were unoccupied by animals).  I did get to try a scone with jam & cream, but it just didn't match the amazing ones I had with Lesley and the boys back in Adelaide.

We headed into Cork after finishing at Blarney, but couldn't seem to find any of the things on my list using our GPS.  I accidentally turned off the road down an alley that lead only into a parking garage, so despite the rain we decided to walk around and try to find some things on our own.  The Crawford Art Gallery was practically right next door (and was on my list of possible things to visit), so we did a quick walk through there and then got directions to the information center.  From there we visited the English Market (a roofed food market that has been trading since 1788; it is one of the oldest municipal markets of it’s kind in the world), and then attempted to find St. Fin Barre's Cathedral.  Unfortunately, we ended up at St. Fin Barre's church, which looks nothing like the cathedral.  By this point my feet were completely drenched and we were both hungry.  The woman at the information counter told us to visit Jack Lennox's chippy (I'd once again asked for a recommendation), she said it was famous in town and she claimed it was the best.  Not without issues, we found it and I got to try some fish 'n chips.  Although it was a crazy amount of chips (we would call them French Fries) the fish was pretty good.  Thankfully St. Finn Barre's Cathedral was nearby so we were able to visit (lack of food must have been clouding our directional skills - and mine are that good to begin with).  St. Fin Barre is the patron saint of Cork, and the site of the cathedral dates back tot he 7th century when a monastery was founded there.  The current cathedral was built in the 1860's, designed by William Burges, and interestingly, there are many links between Freemasonry and the cathedral (there is even a plaque in memory of the only Lady Freemason in Ireland).

We very much enjoyed our visit: Heather was incredibly impressed by the organ which has almost 4,000 pipes and is one of the biggest in Ireland, I loved that they had a mosaic floor made by craftsmen from Udine (a town very near where I lived in Italy - and I actually know a girl going to mosaic school there).  We killed some time wandering around town a bit (we tried to see a movie, but there wasn't anything playing that was interesting.  Our Irish AirBnB host Anne Marie was very nice, and we had a lovely little room.  We prepared a pretty good plan for our last two days, and the weather for the next day didn't call for any rain, so we crossed our fingers and went to bed.

blarney (noun)

1.  flattering or wheedling talk; cajolery.
2.  deceptive or misleading talk; nonsense; hooey

Read about Day 6 here.

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