Wednesday, June 28, 2006


DAY 2: The beds in Moira's cramped little rooms were surprisingly comfortable, and the light came streaming in at some very early time. Breakfast was at 8.00am, and this was where we met some of the other guests - an elderly English couple who seemed to think they were about to miss their flight back to Dublin, an American couple with a cute kid, and a Swedish couple who didn't say a whole lot. Oh, and a strange English bloke who also didn't talk a lot but sounded Australian. He was a bit offended when I asked if he was Australian...

Moira's breakfast room was more crammed with s*** than the rest of the house, including a photograph of Pope John II in a crowd - presumably on one of his many trips to Ireland. Anyway, Moira's brilliant breaky fry up hit the spot, and we started the tea-drinking odyssey that is Irish breakfast. I reckon we had about fourteen gallons of tea over the next five days.

We said goodbye to Moira, and with a few "to be sure's", we were off. The plan was to avoid Dublin and its notorious traffic, and head in exactly the opposite direction of where we were aiming to get to for the day (Cork), to get onto the M50 (a ring road around Dublin), which would theoretically bypass the traffic and eventually hook us up with the N7 - the main road down to Cork.

The plan kind of worked, and again with much swearing, kamikaze navigating, squinting and pointing, we somehow made it onto the N7, which turned into the M7 (a real motorway), and out onto the open road.

First impressions were of the green green grass and rolling hills. Buildings rapidly made way for sheep and cows, and we started to see the many ruins that dot the countryside - an old castle here, a bit of a wall there etc...some chunks of rock were probably just that - chunks of rock - but others were quite impressive, and probably had a long history attached to them.

The plan was to head down to Cork, via Kilkenny and Waterford. We sailed through County Laois, which we'd never heard of, and into County Carlow and the sleepy little town of Carlow. Looking back, Carlow was one of the divier places we visited but as we had to drive right through the centre of it anyway, we couldn't help notice the brightly coloured buildings and quaint pubs. Little did we know that almost *all* Irish towns are like this...

So we oohed and ahhed over cute Carlow, got the hang of the car (blinkers and windscreen wipers were switched, so there was much windscreen wiper action inadvertently going on for the first 100kms), and had a cuppa tea. Mum asked for a latte and got a blank look, then asked for skim milk in her tea, and was told that there was only real milk...clearly latte hysteria has not reached Carlow just yet.

We hit the road again, marvelling at the green grass, rolling hills, old chunks of rock, cows and sheep etc, and sailed into Kilkenny. More brightly coloured buildings paved the streets, but this was by far a prettier town than ugly ducking Carlow. It was quintessentially quaint - it probably helped to define the word. The doors on buildings were no taller than 5.5 feet, and there were barely any buildings over three storeys - well, accept Kilkenny Castle, which dominated the entire city, perched atop the local hill. It was quite a substantial chunk of rock.

The guide book deemed Kilkenny to be "one of Ireland's finest cities, full of medieval treasures and lined with brightly coloured painted Victorian style pubs and shopfronts", and indeed it was. Mum and I both thought this was one of the prettiest towns we visited.

We traipsed up the hill to the castle, along with hundreds of other tourists, and entered the very green grounds. We had to walk a good few hundred metres back from the castle to get the photo on this page. We then pottered around the Design Centre, which is actually a big tourist shop (although surprisingly good value), and I decided it would be fitting to spend the rest of the week driving round with Irish music bellowing around us.

For the next 700kms, "Timeless Irish Classics", a double CD containing hits like, "Danny Boy, Molly Malone and the Black Velvet Band" provided endless entertainment as we drove through many of the places referenced in the songs.

Next stop was Waterford, home of the famous Waterford Crystal Factory - this we avoided, but the township of Waterford itself was quite pleasant, and had quaint little cobbled streets and more brightly coloured shops.

From there, we sailed though County Waterford, through yet more green rolling hills, and out to the coast at Dungarven. This was our first citing of the coast since Dublin, and barring the vast mudflats, it was fairly scenic.

Timed to perfection, we arrived in Cork City bang on peak hour, but I did actually have my bearings pretty well sorted, having been there in February. The B&B was actually on the city map we had, which made things much easier - accept for the weird Irish house numbering system and the fact that street names on the streets bare little resemblance to the street names on maps...

Anyway, John, the B&B host for the evening welcomed us, outlined the breakfast schedule and pointed us on our merry way, into the city.

We were keen to hear Irish music, which doesn't actually seem to start before 9.30pm-ish in any given pub. Dinner this night was in a very oirish pub called Clancey's, and again cider featured prominently. I also introduced Mum to tot hoddies...or hot hoddies..whatever...the barmen understood.

To wile away time before the band started, I challenged Mum to a limerick competition. We each had to come up with limericks that mentioned the other person's name, by the time we got to County Limerick in a couple of days. This she accepted, and we began working on our limericks there and then. Here's a taste of our literary talent....we'll add more soon:

** From Robyn **
I do have a daughter called Mel
Who had too much cider and fell
She got up again and said
"Oh what a pain,
Do they have this great stuff in hell?"

** From Mel **
There once was a woman called Robyn
Who flew RyanAir into Doblin (go with me here!)
She saw Waterford, Cork and Kinsale
Her navigatin' never did fail
Although her head in the cider was bobbin'.

Funnily enough, all of our limericks revolved around alcohol. To be sure. Anyway, it kept us amused till the band began to play.

And they were excellent - possibly better than the Timeless Irish Classics if the truth be told. They did some jigs, sang some songs, and then got the audience up to attempt to do some irish dancing. Imagine the consequences of copious cider mixed with rapid dancing and lots of counting, tricky steps (like turning your partner), and foreign tourists not being able to understand the band dude's thick oirish accent....somewhat disastrous, but very very funny. We tripped our way through the rest of the evening, and headed back down through a very crowded high street, and back to the comfy B&B.

We were getting the hang of this place called Ireland.

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