Blarney Stone and Butter Churns: Cork, Ireland

The trip from Belfast to Cork was quite simple. We boarded a bus that stopped in Dublin and changed to a new one in Dublin before heading further south. During the layover, we struck up conversation with two fellow travelers, Holly and Millicent. They were teachers from Massachusetts taking advantage of their summer time off. It was pleasant, as always, to make friends on the road. We connected via social media to stay in touch.

As we stepped off the bus in Cork, a calm river stood still beside a long row of small businesses and store fronts. Our initial walk to the Airbnb took us uphill along narrow one way streets past local pubs and the historic Shandon district. The church bells rang a familiar Catholic mass tune. Though we were in Ireland, the overall feel reminded me of Italy. When we rang the doorbell, our Airbnb host stuck his head out of the window above us, letting us know to he would be down in a minute. We looked at another and laughed. This same exact greeting of one’s head out the window had occurred at least 3 times now on the trip.

This Airbnb was unique in that our host had a list of specific rules to follow. It was normal to have a rule or two, but this host had several: shoes off at door, no washer unless a 5 day booking, only water in the room (no food, tea, coffee), and my personal favorite that the use of the oven required his supervision. Overall, though, our hosts were friendly and gracious, even offering us ice cream on a hot day.

Hannah and I took a bus one day to Blarney Castle. The castle is known for the experience of kissing the Blarney stone which is supposed to give you the “gift of gab”. We essentially had to lay back, upside down and kiss the stone at the bottom of the rampart. An attendant sat on the platform with his feet on metal bars beneath the rampart and helped visitors complete the flexible feat. The bigger challenge was probably the line that snaked through the castle innards. Rock hewn short doorways and narrow stairwells filled with lines of people made a woman behind us understandably claustrophobic.

Arguably the best part of visiting Blarney Castle is its grounds. The fern gardens made us feel as if we had travelled back in time or to another continent altogether. We took the long lake wake and watched the grazing dairy cows changing lunch spots while we sought one of our own. Every bit of the land was well manicured and excellent. We easily spent 3 hours just walking and picnicking. A fun surprise was the University of Washington band arriving at the castle and putting on a quick performance for the public. Hannah educated me on the finer points of marching band as we made our way to board the bus back to Cork.

The city itself held a few small breweries and a downtown with various shops and restaurants like most tourist stops. We stayed closer to the historic area. Hannah was excited for one particular exhibit in Cork: The Butter Museum. An older Irish gentleman set up a table in the front of the museum to demonstrate the old-fashioned method of churning butter. Hannah was elated. The crowd participated in cranking the handle of the churn. After a number of other steps, he spread the fresh butter on bread and passed the platter around. Despite the sound of it being uninteresting, it was fascinating and a fun wrap up to our visit.


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