28.07.2016 - 30.07.2016
Cobh earned a gold star from us by providing FREE parking, and FREE sunshine as well - what a package deal! The first thing we noticed when we arrived was St Colman's Cathedral, which absolutely dominates the skyline, and looks all the more impressive because it is so close to the harbour. Fairly sure St Colman is the patron saint of mustard. The carillion is the largest in Ireland - 49 or so bells, and they made use of each and every one of them on the hour. As they say - if you've got it, flaunt it.
The town itself brought words like 'cute' to mind - brightly coloured houses all in a row, and bunting. Lots of bunting. It also had more Australian flags than I have seen anywhere outside of Australia. Cobh was the main port for Irish emigrants, and the links with America, Australia, Canada and other popular destinations are heavily emphasised around town. Cobh is probably most famous for being the last port of call for the Titanic, as well as being the base of the rescue operations when the Lusitania was torpedoed during the second world war. We went to the Cobh Heritage Centre to learn stuff and things, mostly about the history of Irish emigration and shipping. We celebrated our new knowledge with lunch looking over the water, and I was thrilled to be served tomato on the outside of my wrap (thus negating the need for me to remove tomato).
Next stop - Kilkenny. Mr Jinks (the big nosey furball cat) welcomed us to our Airbnb, and then we left him to chase his toys while we wandered the city. It was a very pleasant walk into town along a tree-lined path, and we shared the walk with several people in wetsuits, which startled us somewhat until we realised that we were actually rather close to the river. The wetsuited people went swimming, and we found a bar with live music and beer. To each their own. When we got home, we had an interesting chat with Nick (the human Airbnb host) and the French couple staying in the other room of the house. Nick seemed a bit of a legend - the other guests, less so. She dominated the conversation and pooh-poohed everyone else's life choices, including her partner's 'country upbringing', while he was (in the words of Danny Bhoy) 'a little bit flaky'. But hey - it would be boring if we were all the same.
Day 2 in Kilkenny featured the Smithwick Experience, where we became connoisseurs of the local brew - pronounced "Smiddick's". We struck up conversation with Melanie and Majella, two Irish lasses who were working their way through local tourist attractions because they were sick of visitors having seen more of the country than they had. Our speech rate increased tenfold in order to keep up, and it reminded us just how much we love the Irish accent (and the banter). The girl at the Smiddick's shop reinforced our positive opinion of the Irish, as did the people who randomly started talking to us at the ATM later that night.
We climbed the round tower at St Canice's Cathedral - which was cheaper than going into the cathedral itself, and also a sneaky way of getting a sneak peak of the cathedral for free, as you had to buy your ticket IN the cathedral. Sneakalicious. From the top of the 30m tower (built in 1111) we had view across the whole city. Winning.
We had some seriously good Italian food for lunch, and Simon practised his Italian language skills again. We spent the afternoon walking the gardens of Kilkenny Castle, and watched the free introductory video rather than paying to venture inside. We had seen through the windows that many of the rooms were being used as offices, and didn't feel the need to pay to view someone's workplace.
That evening we resolved the great Bulmers vs Magners debate - Bulmers in Ireland is sold as Magners in the UK, but is different from the Bulmers sold in Australia. It's not often you leave a pub feeling more knowledgeable, but this time that's exactly what happened.
On Saturday we returned to Dublin and returned Clio, which was a much more streamlined process than picking her up had been! We enjoyed our first ever priority check in experience, and then failed to understand any of the announcements made by flight attendants on the forty minute flight back to Glasgow. Farewell Ireland, thanks for the craic!