A Travellerspoint blog

Ireland

Day 1: May(nooth) the Road Rise to Meet

in which your author lights a fire under his wanton, atrophying urge to travel

semi-overcast 75 °F

It’s been so long – too long – since I’ve launched myself out into the world and tried to write about it. When last I wrote in this blog I was wrapping up a trip through Ireland and Edinburgh with my brother and good friends in January 2014; I’ve only traveled domestically since then. And when I was forwarded a notice about a conference opportunity in Maynooth, Ireland – where I presently tap away ensconced at a friendly, sunny café – I thought applying and attending might give me a decent reason to get back out there and to see some old friends. And here I am!

The trip began with some rough timing issues, having missed my initial flight (due to an unfortunate combination of my leaving too late and horrific traffic patterns outside Logan Airport; it took almost 90 minutes to drive 1.5 miles), I was rerouted to Charlotte, NC the next day where I was granted juuuust enough time to leave the airport for a couple hours. My friend Kristin picked me up and provided a mini-tour featuring a terrific brewery with delicious food and a delightful 24-hour French bakery with facsimiles of famous paintings on the wall. (Well played, Charlotte.)

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Flying on an overnight to Dublin, I’m dismayed to find out my flight is delayed two hours, which causes me to miss my 9:30am speaking slot at Maynooth University. I’m able to finagle an internet signal, send a message indicating my delay, and they end up shifting me slightly forward in the day, so not a big deal. The flight is unremarkable – everyone’s reading newspapers bleating about that atrocious RNC our nation just endured – I spend a good deal of it catching up on some academic writing while listening to Bach and sleep maybe two hours. Right before I get to customs, a notification comes through on my phone that Hillary Clinton has picked Tim Kaine as her VP – oddly, I was in Ireland when Barack Obama announced Joe Biden (“my guy”) on my first trip here in 2008. #ImWIthThem, obviously. OBVIOUSLY.

I rent a car – so far, so good, Sixt, who doesn’t have enough automatics and therefore upgrades me to a BMW – and after a slight adjust to the “driving on the wrong side of the car and road” thing, I arrive at Maynooth University, an impressive place. I sit through a paper on Breaking Bad and after a short break, give mine. The delivery goes well, methinks – there’s only about 15 people in the room but I have so much travel adrenaline and after giving this paper at UNC-Asheville and Harvard over the past two years I fly through things confidently. Everyone is pleasant and I hear a few interesting papers (including a talk on keynote from a woman who teaches at Tufts, right in my backyard!) but after being up for over 24 hours with hardly any sleep I’m clearly the least attentive person in the room. I say my farewells and beeline toward the nearest available bed.

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Jo and Tom are theatre friends from my days working with Solas Nua in DC. They envisioned and executed one of the most special works of art I’ve been a part of in Swampoodle, a non-linear retelling of the Irish history of the same-named neighborhood in Washington, tucked behind Union Station. They co-run The Performance Corporation, one of the most audacious theatre companies in Europe, infamous for having produced plays in rowboats and parking garages. Knowing they lived in Maynooth where the conference was to be held made applying all the more attractive, and they were so kind to offer their spare room for the few days I planned on being here.

I settle in and say hello including to three exuberant, fluffy dogs named Glosster, Eva, and Puppy, who is sick. Tom and Jo head off to a wedding, though Jo’s sister Maria sticks around, from Maynooth but lives in Italy except back at home during the hot Italian summer; she’s lovely and cordial and as we chat I push through my obvious 5-hour jetlag and overall lack of sleep. I decide to plop down for 25 minutes under the express agreement with myself I won’t make the same mistake I made on my first solo trip which is to maintain American sleep hours and not adjust until the third day. Near miraculously, I only sleep twenty or so minutes past the alarm and drag myself up for a walk into town.

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I pop in at Brady’s, a local corner pub in fairly docile Maynooth, grab a corner seat (always my favorite) and enjoy my first Guinness back in the auld sod. The sharp, bracing tang – it’s true, it’s better here than in the US – is familiar and darkly welcoming. The men positioned around the pub are older and planted like roots, friendly but guarded, there to gossip about not very much; a few fold their arms across their chests like statesmen at portrait seatings. I ask: “Where’s the craic tonight, gents?” “Here,” one says blankly, sans irony. Their shirts seem almost deliberately varied in color: stark red, striped blue, canary yellow, an Irish pub sponsored by Damon Runyon. A fierce competition of darts is broadcast on two TV sets. I ask a few innocuous questions for which I receive answers, but there are no great conversations to be had here tonight.

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I finish my pint and wander around the Main Street a bit, ending up inside a more boisterous, crowded pub. I have a local red ale, McGargle’s (that can’t be a real name, can it?). Tom tells me that as of late, Ireland’s craft beer scene is expanding far beyond Guinness, who sometimes appear a benefactor of the entire island. I read a bit from Stage Door, the 1933 classic play I’m directing in September, and a fellow cranks up the guitar, singing a few decent songs but mostly the ones drunk administrators want to hear: Wonderwall, Proud Mary, Hotel California. He looks like so many bar entertainers in this country: closely cropped hair, piercing voice, aggressive delivery. A fella could use a tin whistle.

I walk back to Jo and Tom’s, eventually figuring out the feel of the lock (!) and crash into bed. My first day is behind me and I have two weeks of exploring ahead of me. Keep checking in, friends!

Posted by coolmcjazz 09:50 Archived in Ireland Tagged maynooth Comments (1)

Day 5: A Perfect Pint and Trip Up to Belfast

in which your author discovers untold powers of willingness to let an itinerary shift, almost certainly annoying his travel companions on the way!

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Due to the previous evening’s shenanigans – is it appropriate to use clichéd Irish slang when describing things that occur in Ireland? – Day 5 began with its front end significantly lopped off. Dan and I walked down the Liffey to put change in the meter at 6:15am and he would venture out twice more over the course of the next six hours to add time. We’re not sure what getting a parking ticket with a rental car would entail, but we’d rather not find out.

Graci and Amy join us and we’re faced with our first daytime group decision – should we visit Kilmainham Gaol, Trinity College/Book of Kells, or the Guinness Storehouse? Give ya one guess.

We make the not insignificant walk to the factory, pausing for a few group shots along the way.

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I’d been to the Storehouse on my first visit in 2008, and as an amateur brewer myself am pretty familiar with the brewing process, so Dan and I whip through all floors fairly quickly while the two ladies relax in a cafe.

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We all meet up in the famous Gravity Bar at the very top, where one will find one of the finest views of the city of Dublin. (It’s even more impressive during the day.) We all enjoy a “perfect pint” – which somehow, is a true claim; the pints at the factory ARE perfect – and plot our next move.

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On the ground floor of the factory, Graci and Amy take mini-naps next to where the original 18th century lease for the building lies encased in glass.

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Our itinerary had us going to Belfast that afternoon and I push to keep this intact even though we’re behind where we wanted to be. As I drive us the 2 ½ hours north, the car resembles a mortuary – everyone is passed out in deep slumber and I supply music of gorgeous Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird as background. (I packed both CDs, an iPod, and an iPod cord, and all were used at various points. Yay for that!) The driving presents no difficulties on the highway, but navigating the numerous roundabouts (back home we call ‘em “rotaries!”) coming into Belfast are challenging and rather frightening. I'm beeped at at least four or five times, usually for driving too slow!

We arrive in Belfast at about 9:00pm, staying at a house owned by a woman named Romy whom Danny has found via the Couchsurfing site. As we drive in I play some Van Morrison, native son of Belfast. Romy greets us outside her house in a packed residential neighborhood and based on a claim on her profile, I shout out “Are you the Queen of Belfast?!”

Romy is a Belfast native of the town (pronounced here something like "toyun"), as is her fifteen-year old daughter Seren. She sets out a delicious feast of vegetarian stew, and though we’re all exhausted there’s a lively conversation at the table, comparing Irish and American school systems and hearing about what makes Belfast tick. In 2007, I performed in a Solas Nua-produced play set in Belfast called Scenes from the Big Picture – a production Peter Marks of the Washington Post called “One of the 10 Best Plays of the Decade” – and so I’m really interested to hear the distinctive Belfast upward twang we worked so hard on – and probably still never got perfect. The dipthing for the vowel sound in "house" and "town" is closer to how Americans would pronounce "ice" – Romy and Seren humor me by demonstrating a few of these sounds, which really don't exist in American English. All the while in Belfast, I'm reminded of Daniel Day-Lewis's magnificent performance as falsely accused Belfastian Gerry Conlon in the 1993 film In the Name of the Father.

Unfortunately we’re all too tired to go out and explore the city, so I write a bit and the others pack in to sleep at various locations around the ornately decorated house. We particularly fancy the “One Direction Sucks” scrawled on the living room wall.

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Probably our most crunched-in day overall due to our late start and ambitious travel plans, but we’ve met more good people and I’m excited to see at least a little bit of this city in the morning!

Posted by coolmcjazz 13:57 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin guinness belfast Comments (0)

Day 4: A Castle, A Pub, and Finding The Craic in Dublin!

in which your author describes watergate, finds a long lost pub, gets treated like a celebrity director, and welcomes his brother and a new friend in the irish capital

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I woke up on Day 4 feeling much better – there’s some sort of magic craic in Corey’s hot whiskey – and we make our way downstairs for a wonderful breakfast and lively conversation with Corey and Nadia. These guys are utterly pleasant human beings, natural talkers who endearingly finish each other’s sentences. They've gone out of their way to do up a breakfast for weary travelers; we sample some local orange marmalade, Corey’s sweetened porridge (recipe closely guarded), and of course, tea. We’re there chatting for at least an hour, and they’re excited to show up a photo of themselves a with Barack Obama cutout. We get on talking about American politics and out of the blue Corey says “Jaaayson – his Irish “a’s” are delightfully long – “I have a random question. What was the story behind Watergaayate?” Amy goes back for a nap (what she later called “one of the best naps she’s ever had in Europe”) as I write my second blog post. I should note that it’s even more challenging than it normally is to keep this blog together while traveling with others – I have to grab little pockets of anti-social time whenever they present themselves.

Corey is on his way out but before he leaves treats us to a marvelous solo rendition of a Christy Moore song.

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We walk toward Kilkenny Castle and see a bit of the very charming, typically Irish town.

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I had seen the Castle in 2008, but didn’t remember anything about it until I walked in the side gate. It was closing so we didn’t stay for long, but we still take some photos; it reminds me (on a smaller scale) of the medieval castle I visited at Carcassonne in the South of France in 2011.

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We grab some take away food (potato & leek soup) at a small cafe by the castle and sit and eat – I realize later that I took the exact same shot out a window that I took in 2008!

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There’s one last pub Corey had mentioned which might be a match for the one I was seeking but had yet to find. It’s called Cleere’s, and it’s on High Street, quite a bit further away than the others we had peered into the night before. We stop in a pharmacy to stock up on sick meds and Amy has a pretty hilarious conversation about the morning-after pill with the local pharmacist (called a chemist here). Kilkenny is one of the prettiest towns in Ireland – it’s big enough to contain interesting shops and a festive atmosphere but at the same time feels like a traditional small Irish town.

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When we make it to the end of High Street my heart skips a beat as I recognize my surroundings – this was definitely the place I had heard that great music over five years ago! It looks exactly how I remembered it, though far less crowded. I explain to the bartenders and the handful of patrons at the bar about how I had been there and recorded video that I played for probably 40 semesters worth of classes and everyone seems to get a kick out of it. I ask about whether Jimmy Rattigan, the singer who performed the Stephen Foster songs that night, was still coming around; “oh yes, he’s still here, sings every Monday night!” “Please tell him the American music teacher says hello?” "Oh yeah, he’ll definitely remember!” We sit by the fire and have a nice pint.

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Amy takes a nice shot of me by the fire:

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In the back of the pub there’s a room which I hadn’t remembered from my last visit – all sorts of laughing and shenanigans seem to be coming from that direction. I open the door and there are about a dozen high-school-aged kids rehearsing for a play. I tell one of them that I’ve worked as an actor with an Irish Arts organization interested in what’s going on in contemporary Irish theater, and they swiftly invite Amy and I to come and watch their rehearsal. I grab another pint from the bar and when we walk into the back room, the director immediately tries to free up some space for us to sit – we try to make ourselves invisible in the back.

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We start laughing fairly quickly, however, as what we’ve happened upon is a rehearsal of some broad comedy sketches, mostly set in a prison. Everything is played for laughs and it’s fun to be a supportive audience. It’s really the first unusual and creative experience which that we’ve found via serendipity. After about 30 minutes, the rehearsal ends and we exchange information and ask them about their fledgling group, called Dramatic Irony. They explain that they’re all about to enter college and forming a theater group seemed to be the best way to have some fun. Very inspired by the pluck of these talented young thespians!

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As I exit the main pub I wonder if I’ll be back within another 5 years? Amy notices a Watergate Theatre directly across the pub – did that prompt Corey’s inquiry? We pop into a convenience store and I grab some Guinness chocolate:

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We say a very fond farewell to Kilkenny – a city we entered with a fair amount of organizational frustration and leave with satisfying smiles – and start toward Dublin, where we will meet brother Dan and new friend Graci in Dublin.

The drive is much more straight-forward (in more ways than one) than the backroads roller coaster of the previous night, and we pull into Dublin at around 9pm, far later than we had originally intended but with plenty of time to find some craic. It takes us over 45 minutes to find a parking spot along the River Liffey, and we gather our bags and walk up toward Temple Bar where Dan and Graci were hitting up the pubs.

We finally meet them on the street outside the original Temple Bar, and they take us back to the Airbnb flat, conveniently right over the Ha’Penny Bridge.

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We unpack and relax and head out as a new 4-piece unit. We stop into the Lebanese place where Amy and I grabbed late night food on New Years and I get the same delicious, garlicky baba ganoush I had that night. What does this sign mean?!

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I figure Brogan’s Bar would be a nice place to kick off the night given that we know where it is and it tends to have a relaxed energy. I pick up a round and show my brother where my Facebook picture was taken.

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Dan and Graci had already made two friends the prior night – a young Dublin girl named Jessie and her boyfriend Dan from Birmingham – and they join us at Brogan’s. (Apparently Dan got off the plane in Dublin and said "Everyone here looks like Dad!")

A woman stands at the bar near us with an unfortunate remnant hanging from her jeans – Graci names this #TPSmoochfest2014.

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We head back toward the busier part of Temple Bar and go into a place where a local guitarist Cormac whom Dan and Graci had met the night before was playing.

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I find a scarf outside the pub and I claim it as my own; I've already lost a much-beloved scarf on this trip, a long blue one I'm fairly sure I left on the plane to Dublin.

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We enjoy some pints (a fellow from Finland buys me a Caol Ila scotch, which tastes rare and delicious) and we dance and have a blast.

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After that place closes, the guitarist leads us into a posh subterranean speakeasy cocktail bar where I order a delicious drink called a Shoe Shine. It's a gorgeous old speakeasy-type bar and I walk around and take some shots of the interesting layout:

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We link up with a bunch of locals and I talk about Keith Jarrett’s work with a local pianist named Tom who’s a big fan of Sun Ra. Amy sketches him:

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We close that place down and find ourselves standing on the sidewalk at 5am and it’s raining and I’m ready for bed.

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Graci and Amy depart with some new friends and Dan and I walk back to the Airbnb. The introduction of the two new folks has definitely changed the energy but we’re all looking forward to the jam-packed week we have ahead of us! (I really want to note for the record that although I typically don't like to skip ahead, I’m finishing this entry – now about four days behind – in the Elephant House in Edinburgh in the very same room where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. I could use some wizardry – or a flight back to the US and some good rest – to kick this cold which neither my brother nor I has been successful in kicking this week!)

Posted by coolmcjazz 03:55 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin kilkenny Comments (2)

Day 3: Corked, Uncorked, and Who Kilkennied?!

in which your author gives a 100+ year-old item a visit to its former domain, eats delicious things, hears mahler in an irish pub, has amazing old and new friends, and almost dies of plague, again

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“I love waking up to rainbows…”

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…said Amy as we stepped formerly dank, dark Cork into the bright new morning. The sunswept sky seemed to contain fissures from which pockets of rain emptied themselves politely, and we’re immediately graced with a full rainbow extending itself majestically in the very direction of the center of town. Cameras are grabbed, oohs are ahhed. What does it mean?!

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Let me backtrack slightly. By the time of the rainbow, it’s around 11am and it’s already the earliest Irish morning we’ve seen so far. I woke at around 9:45am, quite proud I’ve both arisen fairly early only one day into the five-hour time difference, AND quite happy to have seemingly (though quite falsely) kicked The Plague Bug From My Brother.

We had a loose idea of plans in Cork to meet with a friend – let me call her "@freckledpast," a knitter, baker, and sewer with DC roots whom I knew only from Twitter. (Brief footnote: many people, almost none of them on Twitter themselves, give me guff for what they see as the pointlessness of social media. The story which follows is one of many I’ve experienced which prove the lie to that canard!) Yet since our lovely Cork hostess had no steady internet connection, I couldn’t get in touch with @freckledpast – henceforth known by her actual name Evin – and thus we needed to get into Cork as soon as possible to establish contact. So we started walking, in search of free wifi under the end of that rainbow.

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I snapped some shots on the twenty-minute walk into Cork – the first time I’d actually used my real camera and not my iPhone. (Technology has certainly improved since my first Ireland trip. And/or I am far too lazy to worry much about photo quality.) The streets are rugged, time-worn, residential units tightly squeezed together. Dormer windows.

Things get more picturesque when we make the turn into city center: pub signs in reds and yellows, old, crumbling establishments, brightly screaming billboards.

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We walk along the lovely canal and are beginning to get a feel for the outskirts of downtown Cork.

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Amy claims a hunch on a vegetarian café, and scampers up a set of stairs to find out if they have wifi.

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We get the thumbs up and are subsequently treated to an enormous spread of scrumptious veggie options, probably the best food we’ve had on the trip so far – Amy is entranced by an Irish take on samosas, me with a bulging raspberry scone, and we add full breakfast plates of other veggie-friendly goodies on top of that. (This particular restaurant has been open thirty years in what our kindly waitress describes as an extremely vegetarian-friendly city.) With our first steady wifi connection in what feels like days I scramble to publish my first blog post of the trip, knowing that skipping the first would lead me to possibly abandon the whole works!

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Evin, already demonstrating great patience, tells us to meet her at the Cork Central Library which is just over a footbridge with a large Ferris Wheel in front. She notices our confused tourist gait straight away and we meet not only her but her devastatingly precious 2-year old Liam. I run into the library to procure sleeping arrangements for us in Kilkenny where we’d be off to that night, and Amy and Evin chat while Liam grins his way through a much-desired carousel ride.

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As I alluded to in my last post, there’s an element of reconnaissance adjoined to the Cork side of this trip. About three years ago, I came across a brown paper sleeve which would originally have housed a 78 rpm record, of the variety found ca. 1905-1910 or so, in a bin of dusty old records in a Salvation Army in Brockton, MA. (I remember at first passing on it then going back to find it again a few days later.) I don’t believe I even paid anything for it at all. God knows how long it had been in the US, but it had originated from a record shop found at 34 Grand Parade, Cork, a place where one could not only purchase records (the brand new American-invented tech fad sweeping Europe) but also send telegrams, and even participate in something called “oxygen.” For years I’ve displayed it holding a 78rpm record of my partial namesake James McCool, an Irish tenor from Philadelphia recording around 1905. Knowing I was visiting Cork for the first time, I decided to bring it along and stop into whatever became of 34 Grand Parade…

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…which as it turned out was very close to the library, about a 2 minute walk across the street. As we approached what was now an Adecco Temp Agency (ironically, a place I once did some work for when I lived in NYC) at 34 Grand Parade, a pretty, vivacious blonde woman was locking the door. I approached her: “So, this is a reallllly strange thing but I thought you might be interested in this – I’ve brought it all the way from America.” Any worry I had that this curio may have been more interesting to me than anyone else was erased as her face scrunched up with disbelief. “This is so amazing! Please, come in!” “Did you have any idea this used to be a music shop?” “None at all!” We spend a minute inside she gives me her card, and I promise to send a copy. It’s really a special and very unusual moment. I wonder what the sleeve itself thought?

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We continue walking and enter the English Market, which our hostess Caitriona had mentioned was an essential visit. Inside, we’re overwhelmed with the sights and scents of fresh meat and fish and other produce. I pick up some “award-winning” brown bread crackers and raspberry vanilla jam for the folks. Evin and Amy are chatting like old friends, Liam is tumbling around and seems a natural explorer of spaces, and since I’m still feeling significantly under the weather it’s nice to not have to worry about being so “on” with a new friend.

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It’s chilly and starting to drizzle so we stop at a local chocolatier Evin recommends for a hot drink, and we all nestle into an upstairs lounge area for some mochas and caramel flapjacks. (I remember how delicious these were from Edinburgh.) Liam takes an apparently new liking to chocolate and given the quality of the stuff I don’t blame him.

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We carry on and the rain is stronger, and while she heads home to get Liam some fresh clothes, Evin directs us to a pub called Hi-B Bar on the second floor of an old building around the corner. We’re warned (for the first time) that the owner was one of the most famous creatures in all of Cork, a cantankerous crank notorious for both his much sought-after pub (rated as the #2 “must see” pub in all of Ireland, we’re told) and for his, shall we say, old fashioned approach to customer service.

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I enter the pub alone and am greeted with a warm smile from the barmaid, a thin, early-30-something brunette with a sweet face and demeanor, prepping the bar, playing Sinatra. We chat pleasantly for a bit and then my eyes boggle upon seeing the framed photo of Gustav Mahler which sits in front of one of the stacks of hundreds of CDs. An Irish pub open since 1926 with an ornery owner whose father opened the place and who loves Mahler? Could this be any more my scene?

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I brazenly disobey the “no mobiles allowed in the bar” sign (sorry, couldn't help it) and snap a few shots and my companions show up. Within 15 minutes, the pub fills and conversations effortlessly spread, generally centered on the uniqueness of the pub itself, which one patron describes as “your great-grandfather’s sitting room,” also known for mixing in what the barmaid calls “famous politicians and crazy alcoholic Dave who may be homeless.” Overheard at the bar #1: “I’ll have a whiskey, thanks be to God.” The major topic of discussion, however, is "THE OWNER" – who isn’t in the pub but who lives upstairs and may or may not be watching all of us on closed circuit camera – and his unorthodox take on customer service: a woman orders a Heineken and he will only serve her a red wine. When he doesn’t appreciate a businessman’s conversation, the owner marches over and cuts off the fella’s tie! Overheard at the bar #2: “How old is he?” “84.” “Oh crikey, he was that age ten years ago!”

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At one point Liam bumps his head, starts a two-year old wail and jokes are passed about how many adults have cried in the pub for less cause. The barmaid offers to heat up his milk bottle. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that on a cocktail list.

This pub vibe was exactly what I needed: friendly, warm, packed with stories and even a dose of classical music: the barmaid heeds my suggestions on Mahler and we depart only after the end of the Adagietto from the 5th Symphony. Imagine that?

We say our goodbyes to our lovely and helpful new friend Evin (and our tumbling wonder Liam) – who swiftly complies THIS lovely melange of illicit photos from the pub...

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...then really hears it from her Cork friends about her own photo-taking (thanks for putting your social life on the limb for us, Evin!) – and we hop in a cab to defend against what is now a full-on rain beating down on Cork.

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Our driver is as colorful as most Irish cab drivers seem to be, and asks us if “yer man was at the High B? he’s a crazy one!” He gives us a bit of Cork history on the way back to our place, delivered in the unmistable thick Cork dialect. We grab our bags just as Catriona arrives so we quickly tell her about our day, say a proper goodbye and hop in the car, departing for Kilkenny. (Who killed Kenny?!)

Sadly, given the craic of Cork we hadn’t left quite enough time – and then proceeded to make a wrong turn out of the city costing us 25 minutes – and had issues with the GPS giving us directions to the wrong place – AND had no cell or wifi service – AND AND it’s absolutely teeming rain and poor Amy is driving ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD on some of the windiest country roads imaginable with seemingly oblivious drivers whizzing by in the opposite direction… and thus by the time we got to the Kilkenny area ostensibly for dinner with a friend’s brother, we were not only behind schedule but horribly lost, and our dinner plans fell apart. Glumly, we drive to the Airbnb we had reserved in Kilkenny, greeting our cheerful hosts Corey, a 40-something Kilkenny native and Nadia, a 30-something Bulgarian native, far earlier than they had expected us. They set out some tea and biscuits and it’s lovely to be in another cozy home. (More on these guys tomorrow.)

Corey is driving to see his granny and we hitch a ride the half a mile or so into downtown Kilkenny, a town I visited for just one night on my first trip to Ireland in August, 2008. One goal of mine is to find a pub where I visited with an ex in August 2008 in which I heard some brilliant trad music, and where I also shot some video that I ended up using in my American Popular Music classes for seven years. Problem is, my fever is rapidly increasing and I know I’m not well at all. We enter Langford’s Hotel, a stunningly gorgeous, massive structure with multiple glistening function rooms, designed by the same local architect who designed Madonna’s house. We sit and have some food at the bar (my mashed potatoes are disappointingly clumpy and not as good as my Dad’s; then again few versions are) and I have a half pint of local Kilkenny Ale and I sink further and further down into the depths of this nasty sickness. I barely have the energy to stand, never mind make small talk with my poor travel companion. After what feels like hours we leave and walk in the direction of Corey and Nadia’s, with the hope of locating the mystery 2008 bar along the way. We try every place Corey had mentioned, but no luck. Even with luck, I’m not sure I would have been able to do much beyond collapse into a heap anyway. We get back to the Airbnb and I do in fact collapse into a heap, with a forehead that feels like a stove. Amy asks them for cold medicine (which they are generous to provide) and they make me the most glorious hot toddy (called a “hot whiskey” around here) I’ve had since my mother made me one so as to ward off laryngitis the night before my high school musical opened. I drink it all and eventually fall asleep. A long, complex day peppered with heavy cold rain, but also warm and wonderful people to lighten the burden.

Posted by coolmcjazz 16:53 Archived in Ireland Tagged cork kilkenny Comments (1)

Day 2: Put A Cork In It! (sorry)

in which your author and his trusted companion navigate both the treacherous deep south of Ireland and the treacherous maybe plague bug

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Like Day 2, this entry – which also represents Day 1 of 2014 – will be* short and sweet gritty. We began at Laura's in Dublin, still a bit wrecked from jetlag, sleeping in way past the fervent desires of our pre-trip itinerary. The major goal for the day would be to procure our rental car and drive it to Cork, about three hours to the south. Since I had stayed up until 5am Dublin time the previous night, I was still not quite rested, yet more important, by the morning began showing alarming signs of having full-on caught whatever bug my brother Dan had passed on during the ride to the ride from Massachusetts to JFK airport. Body aches, sore throat, raspy voice; and though we had done a fine job mixing water in with our Guinness on New Year's, my immune system was clearly weakened. We had some breakfast including porridge, Irish yogurt, and lovely Irish bread Laura had left out for us – I've found that one of the great charms of this country is that even the store-bought bread is textured and beautiful – and set out for the Budget rental car office which was about a twenty minute walk past the Royal Canal made famous by this classic Dubliners song (or if you must the recent Justin Timberlake version which like much of his work is actually better than it should be.) It's nice to connect the thin threads between the area where we were staying and the Auld Triangle prison, pub, and song.

The car rental experience is about as fraught with near-tension as you might expect it to be (oh hello, $1000+ credit card "security deposit" mentioned only in the fine print) though our Polish clerk is helpful and gets us set up in our small black bug which we instantly and incorrectly suspect to be a dreaded manual transmission. We decide to rent a GPD system (he cuts us a deal) which has become an essential. My first tentative passage down THE WRONG SIDE OF THE STREET in Dublin is shaky at best and not aided at all by the driver behind us honking because of how slow I'm driving. Turns are an endeavor.

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I spot a large market on the right side of the street and it takes about fifteen minutes just to turn left into a neighborhood, negotiate those mostly one-way roads and , and make our way back to it. I buy all manner of liquids including OJ and hot tea and cold green tea and Cadbury caramel bars (ok, not a liquid) and also some Irish version of Theraflu called "Hot Berry Panadol" which I instantly prepare with hot water. Amy recommends we have some food at Bodkin's Bar next door (I am only realizing at this very moment that I don't know where my leftover burrito ended up) and the youngish bartender tells me I can't bring in coffee from outside and I eek out "Oh, it's Theraflu (he has no idea what that is) and I'm very sick and it's not coffee and..." and he just sort of nods and we now have an agreement. I order a surprisingly delicious burrito with soy chorizo (how that option was made available in a random pub in Ireland I've no idea) and Amy sketches me as I eat, titling it something like "Jason... Near Death." My friends are fiercely talented, yo.

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Eventually I get us out of the city, and though I'm in such a sad state, the ever-terrific conversation with Amy – one of the most consistently intellectually curious people I know – manages to keep me up. We listen to one fantastic Irish trad CD I purchased in York, PA last 4th of July on repeat about four times. My bladder is on overdrive given the constant intake of liquids and we stop three times at surprisingly jam-packed rest centers – Amy is fascinated by the sensational headlines of the local newspapers. She takes over the wheel with about an hour left and finds the left-side thing equally intimidating, though we're on a divided highway so it's somewhat easier until we get into the city.

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We find our way to the sleepy seaside neighborhood we're to stay at in Cork and locate our Airbnb house – it's dreary, drizzling, and somewhat chilly and we're both very tired after the significant drive. The screenshot below is but one of four which I took of directions in case our GPS didn't work – we are finding the lack of internet access a persistently vexing issue, and in a way I don't remember experiencing on prior trips. Can I italicize and bold that?

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Our host is a 40-something lovely blonde Cork-born woman named Caitriona who lives with her pre-teen son Andrew. She's got a real-deal Cork dialect – full-bodied, sharp and intense, and certainly a quick-talker. We chat for twenty minutes or so and I show her the record album cover from Cork ca. 1900 that I've brought from home, originally picked up at a Goodwill in Brockton, MA. (More on this in tomorrow's post.) She makes an offhand remark  – quite funny to Amy – about the appeal of American reality shows like STORAGE WARS: "in the US you bid on a storage facility for somebody else's old stuff and you get valuable items but in Ireland nobody would do that!" Snort.

Though I'm exhausted I recognize this blog ain't gonna write itself so I stay up composing my first post while Amy goes for a midnight run through Cork. She takes almost an hour and returns just as I'm starting to get slightly worried. Through no fault of anyone's save for this nasty bug which I incorrectly predict has already reached its most intense stage, I don't sleep well. Here we are the following morning:

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And that's all from sunny Kilkenny, where we are off to explore a medieval castle and then finally meet up with Dan and Graci in Dublin! (Yes, I tend to write these entries days afterward in other towns...)

  • I seem to have yet to master the art of the short blog post. Who was that 19th century man of letters who wrote something like "This is a long letter because I didn't have time to write you a short one?" That's my fella.

Posted by coolmcjazz 04:58 Archived in Ireland Tagged cork Comments (1)

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