Friday, July 15–Cork City, Co Cork

Hop on, hop off bus tour; Firkin Crane cultural center; RC cathedral of St Mary & St Anne; St Anne's Shandon; English Market; Irish Market; lunch at the Farmgate Café; St Fin Barre's C of I cathedral; "Pulses of tradition" at the Triskel Christchurch Arts Centre

Metropole Hotel

Black VW Passat sedan



I arrived here in Ireland exactly a month ago today.

I really like Cork. Like any city I've ever been to, either here in Ireland or back home in the USA, it has its share of closed, derelict or abandoned buildings or store fronts, and the usual mix of older or even newer buildings in poor condition and state of repair, but no more so than anywhere else, and there are many areas full of well-tended and attractive newer buildings and older buildings lovingly cared for in all kinds of interesting architectural styles.

Last night while checking to see where I might go tonight to hear some traditional Irish music I saw a listing for a show called "Pulses of tradition" which looked pretty good so I bought a ticket online.

I had breakfast downstairs here in the hotel around 9:30.

So what was I going to do between breakfast and dinner somewhere near the theater before the show? I had intended on buying a ticket for the hop on, hop off bus tour, getting on just up the street from my hotel, riding around all the way once, and then stopping off at St Anne's Shandon, the English Market, and St Fin Barre's cathedral before catching the tour bus again to get back to my hotel for a couple of hours before heading over to where the show was.

I did get on the bus at 12:07 or 12:37 as I had intended (I can no longer remember which). It was mostly cloudy but not supposed to rain so I sat upstairs in the rear uncovered section. It was still kind of chilly and also windy enough–at least when the bus was moving–to make me worried I might lose my cap so I put it in my pack.

To get back on the buses you need to show them your ticket. Once I got up the stairs to the top deck I checked the pocket I thought I had put the ticket in and couldn't find it so I thought I'd just have to ask the driver to give me another one.

I saw a lot of Cork on the bus tour, and the information provided by the recorded sound track and the driver herself were interesting and informative. I really liked what I saw of Cork city on the trip. The varied terrain in itself–I don't know why I was surprised that Cork is hilly, too–often provides lovely scenery and there are lots of architecturally interesting and attractive buildings of all kinds from single family housing to businesses and Univesity College of Cork facilities, and the tour goes past and to many of them.

The bus stops down the street from St Anne's Shandon (the church of St Anne in the Shandon neighborhood) and right next to the Firkin Crane cultural center (originally the facility where butter was weighed--a firkin is a quarter of a barrel, and the crane was the mechanism to lift it–then a margarine factory then a bank which burnt down then was bought and rebuilt as the headquarters of the Irish National Ballet before it burnt down a second time then reopened in 1996 as a center for dance) and the Cork Butter Museum which I didn't go into although it's supposed to do a very good job presenting the story of the butter trade and Cork. At one time butter was Ireland's main export.

As I was heading back to St Anne's Shandon I saw a group of students on a tour heading towards the church, so I decided to come back a few minutes later. Just up the street & hill from St Anne's Shandon is the RC cathedral of St Mary & St Anne so I went there first and it turned out to be quite lovely.

I went back down to St Anne's Shandon which is a smaller parish church but is still very pretty and worth the visit. If you pay 5 euros you can climb up to the balcony on the bell tower and even ring the bells yourself. I of course didn't climb the tower but enjoyed looking around the very nice church instead.

I caught the next bus on the circuit again and this time got off at the stop nearest the English Market instead. The market, and the Irish Market across the street (Irish because originally goods sold there were of lower quality and cheaper than in the more upscale English market across the street) are on the Grand Parade, a very attractive part of town. I had a pretty good lunch in the very nice looking Farmgate Café upstairs in the market (good food but service was a little slow) but since I don't have a refrigerator and am moving on to Waterford tomorrow anyway the only thing I bought in the fascinating market was a pastry for later.

I was going to take the tour bus around to St Fin Barre's C of I cathedral because it would have amused me but the sign in the front window of the tourist office (which is where the tour bus stops) said the cathedral was only a ten minute walk away, so eventually I made the very nice walk over to it. St Fin Barre's is stunning and very beautiful, very well worth the visit.

I decided to walk from the cathedral on over to where the performance I was going to was being held. The Triskel Arts Centre, also known as Triskel Christchurch is supposed to be only a ten to fifteen minute walk from St Fin Barre's but it took me well over 45 minutes before I found it, even using Google Maps. I kept walking past the same corners and buildings in different directions, and was starting to get rather frustrated. It turned out that what Google Maps kept calling a street was actually a narrow alley. It also didn't help that signs identifying the names of streets aren't as well placed or as large as I'm used to. After I found the right alley and the theater I went down to the other end of the alley and yes, I had indeed walked right past both entrances to the alley on either side in different directions several times.

By the time I found the theater it was almost 7:15. I was worried that I'd not be able to find somewhere I could get a really quick dinner before the show but I noticed a small burrito place almost right across from the theater and ate about half of the three tacos I ordered–the woman working the counter really piled a massive amount of food on each tortilla, far too much for me to eat then.

I went back to and into the theater around 7:45. When I entered the part of the building where the show is being held I immediately saw why they call the space Triskel Christchurch–it actually incorporates the original Cork Christ Church. It was lovely as a church and now makes an excellent and very pleasant performance venue. They also have a video screen set up above the stage so that makes it easy for everyone including those further back to see what's going on.

The show was excellent. It incorporates a wide variety of different styles and types of Irish music and dancing. The music and musicians and dancers and choreography were all fabulous, and I fell in love with several of the female performers several times throughout the show. There was a guy on keyboards, a guy on fiddle, a lovely blonde woman on concertina, a guy who MC'd as well as played bodhran and banjo and occasionally danced, a lovely brunette woman who sang lead vocals and played flute and pennywhistle, and her husband on guitar and who also shared the MC duties.

There was a male dancer who was very good, as well as two women who danced as beautifuly as they themselves were. I of course fell in love with each of them all over again every time they came out to do a different style of dance or just a different routine wearing a different costume each time, which usually involved short skirts.

When I got to the theater I had asked about where to best catch a cab back to my hotel, and the guy on the desk at that time had told his replacement and apparently described me well enough so that as I was leaving the performance space the new guy asked me if I was the American gentleman needing a cab back to the Metropole Hotel?

I got back to the hotel around 10:30. Emily, the cute blonde sweetheart who had been working the reception desk when I checked in yesterday and had helped carry my lighter bags up to my room for me, was on the desk then. I asked her how late room service operated and she told me I could order a sandwich at the bar and they'd bring it up for me although the kitchen was officially closed. It turned out that my only choice was what they call a chicken salad sandwich here–basically a salad sandwich with some chicken. This particular version turned out to have rather bland chicken that was a bit dry and no mayonnaise or seasoning but I ate most of it anyway.

I'm not sure where I'm going to got tomorrow between leaving my hotel in Cork and my hotel in Waterford for the next two nights. From door to door it's supposed to take about 1.5 to 1.75 hours. I was thinking of going on up to Blarney Castle again this trip but I'm sure it and the experience hasn't changed at all. I think instead I'll just head South to the seaside & harbor town of Kinsale for a brief drive through & look around, and that's just a half an hour drive from here.

If I go directly from Kinsale to Waterford it's supposed to take about two hours, so I've been thinking of going from Kinsale along the coast to the seaside & harbor town of Cobh, which is only 45 minutes from Kinsale.

Then if I were to drive directly from Cobh to Waterford, that's supposed to take another hour and a half. If, however, I drive from Cobh to Youghal, the next famous seaside & harbor town, that trip takes from 45 minutes to an hour depending on the route. Then from Youghal is an additional hour.

If the weather's good tomorrow I might do the trip as possibly planned–Cork to Blarney Castle, Blarney to Kinsale, Kinsale to Cobh, Cobh to Youghal, and finally Youghal to Waterford. That would still get me to my hotel in plenty of time to explore the immediate vicinity for somewhere to have dinner. I just looked online and the hotel where I'll be staying, Dooley's, has its own Irish session tomorrow night at 10 PM.

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