The day starts in typical Irish fashion…a little cooler and wet. Not cold and jackets that we brought are certainly sufficient, but definitely not short sleaves and sunscreen weather. But, this is what we had anticipated so no surprises here.
Today we are part of a small group (10, including our driver, David) that all pile in a 15 seat van and off we go. Our stops will include the Blarney Castle, a trip through Cobh, a short stop at Castlefort, and a late lunch and walk around Kinsale.
The journey takes us through what would have been a splendid drive inland in the central district (which in itself is an island created by the diverging channels of the River Lee) of the city of Cork. County Cork is the largest county in Ireland and the city of Cork is Ireland’s third largest after Dublin and Belfast. Originally founded as a monastery in the 6th century it was overrun by Vikings around 841 and finally charted as a city in 1185. So it’s been around awhile.
As much of a pain that $1.25.9 per litre for gas is to us, think about paying 1.49.9 Euro which is the going rate anywhere in Cork. That works out to be about $2.28 CDN, depending on the exchange rate. True, they get paid in Euros so in that sense it’s all the same, but still…
April to September is their busy tourist season and last year also brought a brutal (for them ) winter. They had snow that came down for three day’s straight and lasted for ten days!!! Now, given that they really don’t get a lot of snow, they also don’t have any snowplows so everything in town was shut down. The same lady that told us that tale of woe was horror struck when I told her our winter last year was over 180 days long. She almost didn’t believe me.
In 2011 they had a very serious flood, which was something so out of the ordinary they passed it off as a one-off. In 2013 they had another and finally decided ‘maybe we should put a flood plan in place’, which they did.
There is a very large estate in the county called Fota estate. It is surrounded by what’s known as the Famine Wall. This was built by the poorer families in the area and they were paid enough, by the estate owners, to buy food for their own families.
A number of large companies have major centers in Ireland, and Cork specifically, due to the low corporate tax rates. Apple, Dell, Trend Micro, and Heineken to name a few. Another is Pfizer. Apparently they make a little blue pill that is locally referred to as the Pfizer Riser…
Near the city center is a four-sided tower with a clock face on each side. It’s known as the Four Face Liar because each clock shows a different time.
Whenever there are traffic signs denoting distance to the next town/village/city they show it both in English and in Irish. Learning the Irish language is mandatory in primary and secondary school (basically grade one to twelve) and is necessary to complete final year exams. After that it isn’t required, but at least they are working diligently at keeping their heritage alive.
Another thing we can be (reasonably) happy about in Canada is rent increases. In Ireland they have been at 10% per year since 2013 and have become so astronomical that young people are finding it impossible to save up the down payment to obtain a mortgage.
The day is not raining enough to be miserable, but just enough to take the beauty away from the sights we see. Wandering about Blarney Castle grounds it is a shame they cannot be appreciated as much as warranted. Looking up the hordes of people standing in line to kiss the Blarney Stone reinforces the decision to not even attempt same. Meandering about is peaceful despite the crowds and presents numerous photo opportunities.
Leaving the castle grounds, a visit to the Blarney Woolen Mill Shop seems in order. It used to be a fully functional mill but has since been converted to Ireland’s largest gift shop selling traditional Irish goods. Everything from Donegal hand-woven tweed, to Irish linens and knitwear. They also have, of course, Waterford Crystal whose history in Ireland dates back to 1783.
Now back to the van and onward to Castlefort. Today is not the best weather day to visit the star-shaped fort regrettably. The view of the ocean would have been fabulous had it been more visible. It was built in a star formation facing the ocean with the thought being they could better ward off any attackers. They failed to recognize the higher land elevations behind them. Ultimately that didn’t bode well. Now it’s commonly referred to as a brain fart.
Once again it’s back to the van to wind our way to Kinsale. About eleven miles off the coast of Kinsale is where the Lusitania was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-Boat, losing some eleven hundred lives. Now the town is an up and coming thriving area. Bright colored buildings are all around and despite the weather, there is no shortage of people making their way in and out of the retail shops and restaurants. We happen to be some of them and find a hotel/tavern/pub called The Blue Haven. In we go to sit and enjoy a late lunch. BTW…they DO make an excellent fish and chips and no, there was no beer. Yet. Tomorrow is Dublin. And everyone I have talked to, that has first-hand knowledge, swears to the fact that Guinness in Dublin is NOT the same as it is in Canada.
I’ll let you know tomorrow.
Oh yeah…one other thing. I posted a picture of our balcony on the Our Ship page. 😉
Talk with you soon.