Tuesday, April 9, 2013

trip to Ireland...life is wonderful

As promised, I'm finally making a post of photos about our trip to Ireland back in February.  We decided to go on rather short notice, as Chris was asked to go for work and so I took the opportunity to go with him and take my second international trip.  We spent our time in the city of Cork, in the southeastern part of Ireland, and it was a lovely time even with the limitations of the weather and offseason.

Chris flew out on Monday and I followed on Thursday, each arriving the day after we left, so Saturday and Sunday were our days spent doing touristy things together.  This is the river that flows through the city of Cork, taken from one of the bridges we crossed as we wandered around.

We visited the Cork Butter Museum, where we learned about the butter industry in Ireland and how it changed in the mid-1900s with the advent of Kerrygold and other brands.  This is a display of some of the many individual dairy brands of butter available in the 1800s in Ireland, all of which joined together to make a single high-quality brand of Irish butter for export.  Sadly, no taste testing was available.

Saturday afternoon we took the bus to Middleton, where we toured the Jameson distillery, which was very interesting and very cool.  The copper pot still in this picture is one of the original ones used for decades/centuries before they built the new modern facility, and it's enormous.  While I don't drink alcohol, it was pretty neat to learn about the whiskey making process and the differences between American, Scotch, and Irish whiskeys.  Plus there was a stag party in our tour group, with the groom-to-be dressed in a cow costume and carrying a frilly pink handbag, so that was pretty entertaining.


Chris got invited to join the small group at the end of the tour who got to taste all three types of whiskey and thus become official Jameson Whiskey Tasters.  Pretty neat!

On Sunday we took the bus out to visit Blarney Castle, which was lovely and very interesting to walk around and enjoy.  This photo is of the Poison Garden, seen from one of the castle windows above.

The castle watchtower, as seen from one of the arrow slits in the main castle building.  You can see the moat just past the watchtower.

Spinning while I waited for Chris to finish up what he was doing at that point in time, whatever it was.  The portion of the castle visible behind my hand was added on in the 1800s and was more of a manor house than a castle, which was destroyed by fire unfortunately.

We also toured the grounds, including the gardens and the rock fell, as well as walking around some of the mysterious and ancient spots known as the Witch's Kitchen and the Druid's Cave.  This is me walking up the Witch's Steps, where legend has it that if you go up the stairs with your eyes closed and focus on a single wish, the witch will grant it as payment for the firewood she collects every night.  Yes, I made a wish...

This is the cathedral near the hotel where we were staying, which was very beautiful and lovely to walk past every day.  Lots of goldwork to catch the sunlight.

On Monday while Chris was working, I took the train to Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in order to visit the Titanic and Lusitania memorials and go through The Titanic Experience.  The town was gorgeous all on its own, however, and I had a good time looking at the lovely painted houses and doing a bit of shopping in the shops that were open.  I also had an incredible cup of hot chocolate and a scone that morning as I waited for the museum to open, as well as a lovely lunch at the Titanic Cafe after I went through the museum.

The Titanic Experience in Cobh is housed in the original building of the White Star Line offices, where those who boarded the Titanic bought their tickets and waited for the tenders to take them out to the liner, which was moored out of sight in deeper water.  The museum experience was very well done, smaller than the traveling exhibits I've seen before but full of information and presented in an interesting yet respectful manner.  It was an experience to walk the same space that so many had walked who were lost on that fateful voyage, and to see the ruins of the dock and the photos that show how things looked a hundred years ago.

After lunch I walked up the steep hillside to see the cathedral that looks out over the city, which was incredibly beautiful.  I loved the ironwork on this door, so intricate and clearly made by hand with love and attention to detail.  The interior of the cathedral was phenomenal, with an inlaid mosaic floor that had Celtic knotwork flowing throughout the entire building.  I did not see a gift shop, unfortunately, so I have no photos or postcards of the interior, but it's well worth the visit should you ever be in Cobh.

Tuesday I took a bus to Kinsale, noted as a very "foodie" and tourist-friendly town on the seaside just about a half-hour from Cork.  The harbor was full of boats, mostly shuttered for the winter, but still pretty especially with the early-morning sun rising over the harbor.  This was also my one encounter with an automated pay-for-use public toilet, which was interesting yet a brilliant idea.

The city castle in Kinsale is now the home of a winery (IIRC), but as it was February and not tourist season it was still closed for the winter.  The details on the castle were very lovely, especially these windows, and I wish I could have gone inside - maybe next time!

I walked from Kinsale out to Charles Fort, which was a very long walk that was broken up by an interaction with an adorable JRT out for a walk with her papa who jumped right up in my lap as I sat on a bench.  Very different looking dog than Phoebe or other JRTs I've known in the States!  The fort was okay, but very bare without a lot of stuff to look at, but it was interesting to read about the history of the site and the roles it had played in various wars.  This is a traveling apothecary/surgeon chest from the 1800s, which I found pretty neat.

Our last full day in Cork was spent visiting Chris' company worksite there and getting a tour, followed by relaxing and a nice dinner out as we prepared for the long day of travel to go home.  I thoroughly enjoyed our trip, and I hope to visit Ireland again.

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