25.07.2016 - 27.07.2016 18 °C
We're in Ireland now, a long way from Shetland, and what a journey it was! We arrived in Aberdeen at 7am, and then took a private bus to the airport. Well it was actually a public bus, but apparently nobody else wanted to get to the airport that early so we had the whole double decker thing to ourselves!
Once at the airport there was a spot of last minute suitcase weighing and ensuring that the weight was appropriately distributed, and then it was up up and away! The flight attendant was called Damiano (Italian much?) and had a delightfully surprising Irish accent. "Welcome on board flight E-one-tree-two-tree-five..."
We arrived in Dublin, and that's where the fun ended. DO NOT RENT A CAR THROUGH SIXT. We joined a massive queue - which we assumed was just because Sixt were offering a good deal. Nope. It was actually because anyone who had booked through Europcar or Avis or Enterprize or Hertz had already collected their car and left the building. We waited nearly three hours to collect Cliopatra the Renault Clio. I was able to sustain my good humour and high spirits for about the first two hours, but after that I just got cranky. Especially since there was very little in the way of customer service being offered by Sixt staff. Grr.
Clio did, however, come with inbuilt GPS which proved very handy in getting us to our Airbnb near Carrignavar, our base for the next three nights. Tim and Kholood's place was conveniently located in the hills about 15 minutes from Cork - all the benefits of city life but with a stunning countryside view to enjoy over breakfast. Breakfast did tend to take a long time each morning - partly because we were enjoying the view, partly because we were enjoying the food (typical Palestinian breakfast - bread, oil and herbs) and partly because we were enjoying conversations with Kholood about life in Palestine, and the pros and cons of pepper spray vs tasers. Just one of those moments that makes you feel incredibly lucky and grateful for the life you were born into.
As well as Palestinian cuisine, we've enjoyed some seriously good Turkish food (Shawarma King eat your heart out), Italian food (lasagna strikes again) and POTATOES! Mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, chips... And I'm sure there still more potatoes to be had before we leave the country.
Cork gave off vibes that placed it somewhere between Aberdeen and Amsterdam - though not alphabetically, obviously... The city centre is surrounded by two rivers, and there are plenty of cyclists getting around amongst the tall buildings squashed together. Although there are plenty of colourful buildings, there was still a feeling of greyness and functionality about the place, but it was much easier to find the 'heart' of the city than it was in Aberdeen. Fewer cyclists, straighter buildings than Amsterdam, and more life than Aberdeen. All of this decided from a one hour walk around the city - and numerous parking related challenges... We found a multi storey park that quickly became our regular spot, but when we ventured out of the city to Fitzgerald's Park we encountered the Parking Disc Phenomenon. The PDP meant that we had to park at the Park, go into the museum, wander for ten minutes to find a staff member who then directed me to the cafe which was around the other side of the building. Once equipped with my disc I was able to return to Simon and hope that he and Clio hadn't been towed away. The PDP is probably very convenient for locals who keep a stash in the glovebox - just not so good for ignorant tourists. And why is it called a disc, anyway? It's actually a scratchie card. Weird.
Anyway, PDP aside, the museum was a random assortment of artefacts and facts about life in Cork. We learnt some stuff and things, and it only cost us 2 euros for parking (it's hard to quantify the emotional cost of the stress caused by PDP). After the museum closed, we were treated to renditions of all of my favourite 90s tunes by singers of varying quality out in the park. Cranberries, Alanis, No Doubt...
We spent most of a day in Blarney, where my skills as a grammar nazi were most definitely needed. The Italian restaurant that had a poster advising that "you'r welcome to bring your own wine" nearly got a stern talking to but Simon dragged me away to Blarney Castle to hang out with one bazillion American tourists. We climbed the stairs to the top of the castle with a claustrophobic lady who appreciated the distraction of talking to Simon, and then took our photo in front of the view. So many shades of green! We did the obligatory kiss-the-stone thing (I'm hoping it actually stops Simon from talking so much...) and then spent time getting lost in the gardens. The village of Blarney had plenty to offer in the way of icecream, so we accepted the kind offer and sat in the park enjoying our chilled dairy items. Mmm.
Kinsale proved to be infinitely more colourful than Cork, or anywhere else we've been in the last month or so. It was also less expensive to park as the pay machine was out of order - free parking for all! We walked around the bay to James Fort and enjoyed the views (green, green and more green) and the serenity, broken only occasionally by locals and their dogs and their tennis balls. Love your work, Kinsale.
We managed two nights of live music in a pub - two very different nights. The Oliver Plunkett in Cork gave us mostly instrumentals, with the occasional obscure Irish song, and the occasional Irish dancer jumping on stage. If I'd been one of the musos, I would've resented the dancers somewhat - as soon as they jumped up for their 30 second stint of performing the cheers filled the pub, while the poor musicians played for hours with not much more than polite applause. Kinsale gave us a right old sing along, and even the publican (Seamus, of course) joined in with a few numbers.
Looking forward to seeing what Cobh and Kilkenny are like - and hoping for simple car parking systems wherever we go!