I’ve never been a morning person, even growing up. Man, high school started @745! I did it though, not sure how, that’s rather early.
Since our bus tour was literally a couple blocks away, we were safe getting breakfast by 8. I just got eggs this round. They arrived with a bread I’d only see in Ireland so I finally asked the waitress.
Soda bread! It was very dense bread made with baking soda vs yeast. Spread some butter jam or marmalade, if yer fancy, on a slice and it’s pretty good.
It was quite cold walking to the bus depot. When we arrived, several men were gathered, steam billowing out of the cups of coffee. They all smoked cigs too and I watched as the smoke/steam rose and dissipate over the river.
There were maybe 15 of us on this bus, we were pretty close to the end of the tour season our driver told us in a very wonderfully thick Irish accent.
He told us history the entire trip to Blarney, offering insights into the area as well as translating some of the Irish signs along the way. He had a wonderful, calming voice.
O was not in this guy’s pronunciation, not as we know it in the US, it was more ahr, so Cahrk, was how he referred to Cork.
Only an hour drive to Blarney Castle. Our driver gave us about an hour and a half tour time, using the term ‘half one.’ Sure we are using English but very different perspectives on time and phrases.
We crossed the car park over to a stream, moat that was in front of the castle walkway.
Calm waters turn into a little waterfall on the road to Blarney Castle.
There were a couple of walking paths that we thought would be nice after seeing the castle, kissing the stone.
Now, I had grown up with my mom saying her grandma’s maiden name was Blarney but it had been changed when they arrived to America to Blainey.
In quite literally every place we went in Ireland, they had posters, books, crests on every Irish family. I always searched for Blarney.
Was this a sort of homecoming? Were we entitled to a small part of the castle? Nah.
I don’t have a very ethnic surname yet I’ve always wanted one or to know for sure where my family originated. As it was I was just a great American mutt, an unknown mix.
For a thing as big as a castle, this place felt small, narrow. In order to get up to the 2nd story, we waited while others ascended a very narrow set of stone stairs aided by a chain rail along one wall.
The tour of the old castle left a lot to the imagination. No elegant paintings line the walls anymore, no torches lit to guide us, no animals roasting in the huge fireplace.
Just empty, drafty rooms, well-worn stones and stories of grand days gone by are all that remain. Oh and plenty of tourists, anxious to pucker up to the stone.
The tale of the stone is not well-known to me so I was happy to hear it in the castle. We slowly snaked up stairs towards the stone.
It is an awkward affair, you have to lean backwards over a large void many feet from the ground, a guide holds your legs, another takes a picture. Takes less than 10 seconds and 2 guys do this for hours per day, hundreds of people.
Great views of the village of Blarney though.
Once we descended the stairs, I saw how long the line to kiss the stone had become. It was already in half hour or longer wait time. Early riser was the right call.
Outside the castle was a lovely garden. On display were many poisonous plants, including cannabis, somehow not stolen.
It is strange how all these naturally occurring plants that can easily kill are legal to buy and plant. Yet 1 is forbidden, how can you make nature illegal? Only if something that is man-made competes with a plant, only then can one outlaw nature.
Soon we were back on the bus heading to Cobh, a tiny port where the Titanic and other ships bound for the US left.
The name of this place matched perfectly with our driver’s pattern of speech. The city was named Cove, but there isn’t a v in Irish language, so bh makes sort of a v sound.
Our driver explained that many cities had been overtaken by the English, but were now going back to using the Irish city names. There are other cities who were never under the English and are proud to have always used their Irish names.
We had a couple of hours, warned to be back by ‘half 3,’ Oddly, we arrived in the midst of a triathlon. The main road was blocked off as was the walkway.
A crossing guard waved us over as it was a point that bikers shot by on the way to the final, running stage of the event.
Along the coast most everything was Titanic themed from restaurants, posters for sale, anything nautical was Titanic branded.
Up a hill was the town’s cathedral, a wonderful view of the bay. It was comically windy when we walked the courtyard. I felt like a mime walking against the wind. I nearly was blown over!
The town was so quaint, lovely. Seemed everyone was out watching the athletes, lining along the metal barricades on the street.
We passed a statue to a Sonia O’Sullivan, Olympic medalist from Cobh. A couple of rowers from another small village on the island had won silver in the just completed summer games.
Venturing into the visitors center, we followed a line of people for a bit before realizing it was a buffet line, haha. Herd mentality right there because I wasn’t particularly hungry but if presented food, you likely ate. We hopped out of line.
Lots of cool displays, artifacts and even paid tours for more Titanic lore were in the visitor’s center.
This port is also where the Irish, English criminals that were sentenced to live in Australia shipped out as well as the ships bound for Amerikay.
I too felt the lure of the sea here. Doesn’t it sound grand, hop a ship to a far distant land, warmer climates, too. Sadly not many options on the island for a lot of people so they placed their bets on distant shores.
It’s one thing to send your kids off to college, now image shipping them out on a boat, alone, to start over somewhere else, likely you’d never see them again. Wow.
Once back on the bus, to my surprise, our driver asked where everyone wanted to go next, we were due to go to another castle, but it was threatening rain.
Most wanted to go to Jameson, some felt they were done and wanted to head home.
“We’ll drop those off at Jameson, then I’ll run ye to Cahrk, then back to Jameson, that’s the plan.’ he decided.
It can rain at the drop of a hat in Ireland, bring a raincoat when you go.
Still raining as we pulled into Midelton, a tiny village that was home to Jameson Distillery.
We got out and raced down the road to the distillery, rain pelting us the whole route. Our tour was in about 45 minutes, so I figured we may as well have a leisurely beverage.
Tour includes 1 beverage, just a taste, not like some breweries that give out unlimited samples.
Jameson and ginger ale or ginger beer is fantastic! Also lime and water is a good mixer.
In the large merchandise room, I saw one could buy a full personalized barrel as well as a machine that not only let you fill up a bottle but engraved it with your information, too. As you can image, both are expensive.
Our tour began and we got through a couple old barns and things before it poured rain, sheets of rain fell so we had to make a couple of dashes for shelter. On these occasions we all gathered at the opening whilst our guide pointed to the outside attractions.
As a beer drinker, I was fascinated by the process of making liquor vs beer. They actually did make beer before it became whiskey.
Whiskey began as a strong 12% beer but then they heated it further, taking the evaporated alcohol out of the beer.
Made me wonder what Jameson beer tasted like, it may very well had been horrible and only good for distilling.
It took years to age whiskey in barrels, and what we drink is several different years blended together. Barrels that are deemed worthy are set aside for advanced aging.
They even worked with a brewery trading beer barrels for whiskey barrels taking turns coaxing flavors out of the barrel wood. They had a room just for experimenting with newer methods, grains, hops.
We finally arrived at the tasting room where we had fresh whiskey, 1-year-old and finished whiskeys. The fresh stuff is a bit harsh, like moonshine, it is clear colored too getting its brownish hue from the wood.
This wheel used to turn the grain smasher for over a century. It still spins though no longer breaks the grains up.
A worm tub turns vapor back to liquid. Worm refers to the coiled heating elements needed for this process.
Once the tour concluded, we had maybe 10 minutes before our bus was due. Slamming a beverage is not fun. Good call on pre-tour beverage.
Again we had to make a run in the rain to the bus. What a day, we somehow got good weather when we needed it outside and it rained when we were indoors.
Our bus seemed to follow the rain back to Cork yet it cleared up once we saw the big ships at the docks at the entrance of the city.
We were both tired and a bit hungry. Rain was threatening again so we dipped inside a burger joint. It was a modern one, exposed pipes, elegant lighting, fries served in cones.
But they had beer and burgers, both much-needed. We talked about other options in the city as we had 1 more day before we left for Killarney.
I watched the pouring rain from the window and was thankful I was in a warm place, with good food and my mom was there, too.
We were able to discuss many things since we had so much time together. I’d ask about her trips growing up as well as trips we took as a family.
She told me of the long car rides her family took. They left as soon as her dad was off work Thursday, returning in time for him to work Monday afternoon.
They drove 7 hrs one way, only stopping at a place just before the Oklahoma border for coffee. They did this trip often, at least 1x month.
I am still not sure how we were able to take a long trip to Yellow Stone when I was younger. Without the internet we were able to secure lodging in several places!
I kept asking, ‘Did you call them, write them? How did you get their contact info? Did we have to go to a library to get that info?’
Due to our early morning, I only had 1 pint in the hotel bar before calling it a night.
The rain softly tapping a soothing pattern on the windows lulls us to sleep.
Beer: Rebel Red
Song: Ash Girl from Mars