July 7, 2010 – A great day in County Cork, Ireland
I can’t think of a better way for today to start that when I asked my dad how he was doing this morning before breakfast and he replied “Unbelievably good!” After a bit of a slow start for my mom, we managed to make our way through breakfast (a full Irish one for my dad which included blood sausage so completely off my list of things to try) before driving down to the harbor of Kinsale.My parents have been sailing (mom mom a bit against her desire) for 40+ years, so it was a thrill to find out the Clipper sailboat racers were leaving this morning at 11am.What a fun thing for this tiny town and its yacht club, to host these racers overnight as they prepared for the final week of their year long journey around the world.And what luck for us to be standing right next to the dad of the skipper of the Irish yacht as they were ready to depart. See the young woman with the dark hair rallying her team on the left? That’s Hannah, the skipper, as she takes her ship out of the harbor, her parents cheering her on from our side. (As a side note, the original Irish yacht from the race sunk at sea – this sailboat, and Hannah the skipper, are a replacement partially through the race. Note to self to look up those details.)As soon as the boats left the harbor we hightailed it for Charles Fort on the point about 2 miles outside of Kinsale, thinking (stupidly I guess) that we could catch them as they rounded the bend. They were long gone from view, but the fort was cool still.Alas, we only managed pictures of ourselves around the fort, one of the most well preserved star-shaped fortresses in Europe, and captured this great shot of the town from the fort, with the all important sailboat in the foreground.At this point in the day it was about noon-ish and my dad surprised me by suggesting we drive to Blarney instead of heading right to lunch, so off we set. About 90 minutes (or more) later we actually arrived in the village of Blarney. While I am doing great driving on the left hand of the road, the signs completely baffle me – and trust me, I’m usually very grounded in directions.The arrows on directions seem to point between two streets, not down either one, and we looped our way through the city of Cork twice just trying to cut through it to Blarney. After a quick pub lunch (BLT and fries for me), we made our way to the castle to climb it. My dad couldn’t wait to get up there so I waited with my mom while he took off for the line. Despite his age and two artificial knees, he made his way up the 127 steps, kissed the Blarney stone (like he really needs any more gift of gab!!!) and came back down to meet me with his picture from the gift shop in hand. He then went on to tell everyone else he saw on the path that the climb is “only” 127 steps and if he, a 77 year old man, could do it, so could they!I took my turn while he waited with my mom, and must say the leaning back all the way down to kiss the stone is a bit scarier than it looks on the Rick Steeves Travels in Europe show, although the man assisting couldn’t have been kinder. I bought the gift shop photo also, mostly so my mom could see my kissing the Blarney stone.Â I’m always one to reward good effort with food (yes I know therapists make a living trying to treat this kind of disease), so treated my dad to a rum raisin ice cream for his tower hike and my mom to a strawberry ice cream for her efforts at wheeling her walker all the way through the park to the castle. They seemed happy about the day (the weather didn’t hurt) as we enjoyed the rest in the shade.Unbelievably, it was nearly 7pm by the time we arrived back at the hotel, having been out and about the entire day (even Noreen at the hotel was impressed) so we headed straight to Jim Edwards in Kinsale for dinner. How have I been in this country for over a day and not tried the Irish soda bread with authentic Irish butter? And how will I not gorge myself on this at every meal to come having discovered how fabulous the combo is?!The first course of mussels grilled with a topping of garlic breadcrumbs was like the best garlicky snails, only made with mussels – and I could have eaten 3 trays of these, I promise you.Instead I moved on to the entree – a tender filet of salmon topped with Parmesan crumbs served with a very light dill cream sauce. With seafood like this, who needs meat?
After dinner I snuck out (see last night’s post) for a very quick beer at a pub – mostly to see what it’s all about. The bartender actually laughed at me when I asked for the smallest size beer they had explaining that most people come in asking for the very largest size. I think pub life is meant to be shared with a crowd, not done solo, but hopefully I’ll find an opportunity to experience the fun of it some night while I’m here.
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