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Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

so...where are we?

so...where are we?

“You’re going to Cork over Easter weekend? Everything will be shut. Yes I mean everything. You might not be able to eat. Take food.”

When you get encouragement like that when you tell someone you’re going on holiday, you either laugh, or stare in shock, speechless. I did one, Cam did the other. Luckily, our hilariously sarcastic friends were wrong, but they weren’t all wrong.

Cam and I arrived very (very…) early on Good Friday morning in Cork, Ireland. After being greeted by the enormous hill that preceded the entrance to Sheila’s Hostel, and taking a much needed nap (I really did mean very early) we got up to discover that…nothing was open. Okay, not nothing. But when you’re on a girls holiday in Ireland of all places and the sale of alcohol is banned. Well, it may as well have been nothing as far as we were concerned that day.

tiny chocolatesDon’t worry, we did pull ourselves together and actually decide to explore Cork beyond the pint glasses. We found a Gourmet Burger place (not GBK…proper local like) and gorged on the biggest beef patties and buns I’ve seen in awhile, then over the river and into the high street we went. Heading down St Patrick’s Street, we explored Cork’s city centre. We found O’Connaill’s on French Church Street, where the hot chocolate had come highly recommended. It didn’t disappoint. Walked through the English Market and bought ourselves one tiny little chocolate each at the amazing chocolate truffle stand, and Cam discovered her new favourite necklace at one of the alleyway’s vintage shops.

Then, the perfect way to round off the evening – the one place, possibly in all of Cork that had a bottle of wine or two to share with us? Sheila’s Hostel. I knew I picked this place for a reason. We also spent the evening getting to know half of the Muycullen under-17’s boys basketball team who were staying in our hostel for a tournament. I hope they did well, I have no idea, but apparently they’re pretty good…

Saturday was reserved for the Franciscan Wells beer festival. From a completely dry day in Cork to a, well, not dry one. With some new friends from Sheila’s and fellow festival folk, we tried out as many different Irish beers as we could handle. We felt it was our obligation after all… only fair really.

We did manage to make appearances at both Crane Lane and Mutton Lane – two bars/pubs that had also come highly recommended. Crane Lane had a great outdoor area down the um, lane. Mutton Lane was the absolute definition of a pokey old man’s pub but was brimming with charm. We didn’t stay (they didn’t serve food, we were hungry) but I think I really liked that place.

Sunday was kicked off with a proper roast, a film, and yes, the beer festival. It ended, in my opinion, the best way possible. We had met a comedy group, also staying in our hostel (Sheila’s is clearly quite the hive of activity…) called Foil, Arms & Hog. We were meant to be seeing their act, but the lack of a crowd on Easter Sunday meant the night was canceled, and they went back off to their home city of Dublin. Leaving me and Cam and the City Limits Comedy Club owner, Brian, to ourselves. So what else was there to do except lock up the doors, help ourselves to the bar and have a pool/Connect Four/table football tournament between the three of us while I DJ-ed on my iPod. I have never had a proper lock in at a bar like this, but it was a pretty fantastic if not completely random night.

seaside town of Cobh

seaside town of Cobh

Monday we went crazy and did the tourist thing by taking a train to Cobh, a seaside town and also the last port of call for the Titanic. We chose not to go into the Heritage Museum which apparently was a huge mistake but Cobh – little tip for you – don’t make your museum look so small and unappealing from the outside if you’re going to charge for it. Apparently, once inside, it’s fascinating but the entrance was very deceiving. So we spent a few hours wandering the coast line, eating fish ‘n chips by the sea, and seeing the aftermath of a local fire disaster. Back on the train to Cork then…

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Tuesday was a much more successful tourist day. It was also our last day in Ireland. We got up and headed on the bus to Blarney to kiss the damn stone I’ve been told so much about. It actually turns out that Blarney is a stunning little piece of land that isn’t all about the stone. The castle itself is pretty amazing, especially the tiny cavernous dungeons, and the poison garden is great, even if the police have confiscated the marijuana plants (seriously).

We explored Blarney’s Rock Cove with its Wishing Steps (apparently the witch here has agreed to grant everyone’s wishes if you go down the stairs backwards with your eyes closed in exchange for living in the grounds…) and Witch’s Kitchen and even searched for fairies in the grove.

Also – kissing that stone? Not as easy as you may think at first…

**More photos will hopefully be added, apologies for some gaps. To see a few more of my photos, you can click here.

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A few days ago, I had dinner at Corrigan’s restaurant in Mayfair. A fantastic place run by Richard Corrigan – a fun, outspoken Irishman who knows his food. I was there to meet Nadim Sadek, the owner of Inish Turk Beg – a quiet little island off the West coast of Ireland.

The night kicked off with champagne and canapés to break the ice with the other travel industry guests. I found myself talking to two women as we bonded over our love for the parmesan encrusted loveliness that kept appearing on the trays…

Inish Turk Beg. Image courtesy of www.inishturkbeg.com

Inish Turk Beg: Image courtesy of http://www.inishturkbeg.com

I was assigned my seat at the foot of the table which felt strange, but luckily all the talk was happening at the other end where all eyes were on Nadim as he told his story of making his millions, leaving his business and buying a rundown island almost on a whim after deciding that it was important for his children to be more connected to their Irish heritage. Now, Inish Turk Beg is a beautiful piece of Irish wild land where Nadim and the rest of the Inish Turk Beg citizens raise horses, distill their own special brand of whiskey in beautiful handblown glass bottles, create their own style of amazing Irish music and generally live their lives completely.

As I enjoyed my steak & kidney pie and fillet of beef, the whiskey was passed around and enjoyed, perhaps a touch too much.. By the time dinner was over, and Richard Corrigan joined us from the kitchen an unknown number of champagne and wine bottles had already been emptied. By the time the restaurant was shut down, the whiskey bottle was dry too.

A few years ago, I spent a very short weekend in Dublin and otherwise have never been on Irish soil. Next week, I’m headed to Cork for a few days (thank you Bank Holiday) and, while Cork and Inish Turk Beg are not comparable places, the food, the company, the whiskey, the music, and the spirit of Inish Turk Beg and Nadim’s passion have me really excited to at least see a taste of that in the Irish countryside.

Hopefully it won’t be long until I can get myself a ‘lungful of life‘ on Inish Turk Beg itself, but meanwhile I’ll be sure to let you know how my own Irish experience goes next week.

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