Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday night and Monday

Kilkinney Ireland is a sweet, colorful, quaint town that sits on the river Nore - and whose main feature is a beautiful 13th century castle that sits right on the river. Yesterday as we strolled the rolling green lawn of the castle there was an orchestra playing classical music - making me feel for a moment as though I had been transported back in time, much like the character Claire in Outlander. Thirteenth century - really?? What was society like in that time? What did people wear and what were the main sources of income? I ran my hand along the cold stone walls (6 ft thick by the way)...thinking this and So many other questions. So many questions.... so little time...
Kilkenny Castle gate

Kilkinney is lined with shops brightly painted in a hodge- podge of colors, and the enhabitants of the shops are no less colorful. This pub is one where we heard our favorite band thus far, Na Fianna.

Okay, funny story and I hope it translates well. May be one of those "you had to be there" moments. 

A nice old guy in an antique shop told us that there may be a room across the way if we would go see Joe the shopkeeper - which we did. (We were looking for a hotel room)   

Joe handed the key to the room to his friend John, who was glad to show us the room. Turned out it was somewhat of a hostel, which we weren't interested in, but the short trip from the shop to the room with John was a trip that I will not soon forget.  

The gift of gab - or the gift of blarney, was manifest in dear John, who was in his mid-70's and had a slight overbite. He spoke rapidly in a strong Irish lilt - and the conversation, or what I was able to understand, was about the Russians and how well they were able to master the Russian language with it's 37 letters, so how could the Irish not master the gaelic with only 16 letters...he rambled on and on, slowly walking toward the room we had yet to see....leaning closely in as he spoke. We have no idea what started this speech in the first place, but we went along and truly tried to feign interest in a subject that was obviously a sore spot with John.....He used the key in dramatic hand gestures as if his leaning and rapid speech were not enough to communicate his passion on the issue. So that was John from Kilkinney.

Later that night we found ourselves starving so hit a pub for some fish and chips. The pub was fairly empty but within a few moments a lively (to say the least) group of Irish gals came in and sat next to us. They were laughing and having such a grand time - they caught our rude but delighted stare and we were invited to join them. 

Turns out they were a group of life-long friends from a village in Cork - there are only 200 people in their village so they say they are all related in some form or fashion.   We enjoyed their fun lively company for an hour or so and actually kept running into them at various pubs throughout the rest of the evening. They were an absolute delight and loads of fun!
The Irish ladies from co Cork
Marie, Helen, Siobhan, Debbie, Maeve, Marie and Evelyn (I'm next to Evelyn)
The second pub we went into was recommended to us for traditional Irish music. We knew we were in trouble when we noticed we were the youngest ones in the sparce crowd. The three musicians on stage were also of an age - not that there's anything wrong with that - but the music was perfect - if you wanted to go to sleep. It was hard to keep a straight face for a bit, and I did finally lose a bit of my coke through my nose when the banjo player - no less than 80 years old I would guess - said "we heard this next tune on Utube"......we left soon after.

The last pub we ended up in held an unexpected surprise. I knew we were in for a treat when I saw the bodhran on the floor - what I didn't expect was the youth of the band nor the raw talent and energy. They sang many of my favorites - The Black Velvet Band, Caledonia, Galway Girl, Whiskey in the Jar. They are Na Fianna - look them up.

Monday enroute to Cobh ....
The trip from Kilkinney to Cobh (pronounced Cove)  was a few hours of narrow winding roads through the greenest countryside I believe I've ever had the chance to see. We made a decision to stop in a town called Cashel, in co. Tipperary - where a 13th century castle now stands (or partially anyway). How can you NOT look at a castle, after all? Too good to pass up... 

I am forever fascinated with history of any kind - but when faced with stones that were laid upon each other over 700 years ago, it is overwhelming. I tend to think of the people who walked the land, the mind always go to the imagining of people of the time. As is with most castles, this one has a fascinating history that I encourage you to investigate - but the cemetary was one that I loved, full of celtic crosses dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. Sitting high upon a hill, the "Rock of Cashel" (for truly it is built upon a rock) is visible for miles and miles. 
Rock of Cashel

The narrow slit on the right is a secret passage that went around the entire castle

From Cashel to Cobh
The minute we arrived in Cobh, I had a different feeling. I think Nancy sensed it - I was a bit distant and my head was not really focused. I kept staring at the water and the harbor.My mind was on a 26 year old young man. This destination was important. On my scale of importance, it was way up there.

 I know it looks different today than it did in 1807 - but it's still the same landscape and country. So this was Johnny Murphy's last ever view of the land of his birth. Just a tad overwhelming.

I can't imagine what he was thinking or feeling at that time. When I was 26 years old I was chasing two small kids around - while he, at the same age, was boarding a wooden vessel bound for a land he had only heard of. And it all happened right here where I was standing. This moment begged for a phone call to cousin Mike, who was happy to hear from me and was thrilled I was calling him from the port of Cobh. 

The town of Cobh is a lively and colorful (the word colorful describes almost every town...literally. Buildings are painted the most glorious shades of bright colors in almost every town) seaport town filled with delightful people. Nancy and I settled into our hotel overlooking the bay and then headed down for some Cobh Irish hospitality. We were not disappointed. The first spot we went to was a small pub on a corner with only a few locals sitting around. We stayed nearly an hour just chatting it up with the sweetest people in this small Cohb pub...
Left to right - first guy don't know his name but he was a fisherman, Patrick Liam, Noel, Theresa, Nancy and John.

This sweet man was John - when he learned I was a Murphy he quitely disappeared for a bit and came back with this Murphy coaster, which he gave me. He was a great story teller - although his accent was so thick I only caught every other word, but I was able to piece it all together. Theresa said of John, "he is a true gentleman, is our John"

Theresa the barmaid made us come back to pose for this picture. Have to honestly say it's my first time behind a bar. Note the bodhran hanging as well as the backward clock behind the bar. 

This is a barber clock, meant to be looked at in a mirror...or so the Irish say :-)
Before I tell you about our next pub I think it bears mentioning here that pubs in Ireland are not typical bars like you would find in America. A pub will often have families and serve food - much like a restaurant. Didn't want you to think I was bar hopping here in Ireland ;-)

The next pub we found was a alive with folks of all ages and genders. There were two old men talking quietly over a pint in the corner, and a rowdy bunch of young guys playing pool in the back. Settling down, we chose to watch the pool game in progress. Here are a few of the friends we made throughout the night.
Martin hamming it up- who said there are no cute guys in Ireland???

Andrew won the tournament- and yes it's late and it was a long day so I don't exactly look my best

I finally made a decisions on my travel plans from this point. Originally Nancy was going to leave me here and I was going to make my way up to Kerry and Dingle - but she will be taking me to Killarney tomorrow instead, where we will tour the town and the Ring of Kerry.  So I'll post tomorrow night from Killarney....