Published: January 12th 2012December 29th 2011
Seriously, can you go to Kilkenny without at least one South Park reference?
I mentioned previously that I had ventured out to see a bit of Kilkenny while my husband and brother practiced dying (this is the Todd puking in the bushes timetable). I took the map that Rhoda at Rosquil had given me and stood on the street, sun getting ready to set prominently off to my right (aka a clear indication of direction) and did my best to head the wrong way to get myself into town.
For someone who makes maps for a living, I have to be one of the crappiest navigators on Earth. I have complete and total map-reading dyslexia. Not something I list on my resume.
This problem, while traveling in Ireland, turned out to be an early introduction to the ease of traveling in a country that speaks your native tongue. A quick 'Which road will take me across the river?' to the first person that passes and just like that you're understood and pointed in the right direction. Fascinating. In Spain this would have come out as 'this road I go to river?' spoken in a Latin American brogue to
which blank stares would have been the helpful response. In Thailand I wouldn't have bothered as my ability to mime my needs sucks even more than my ability to navigate.
Two pelting rain events and 15 minutes later I find myself in downtown Kilkenny and quickly find the Smithwicks tour office and information that there is a tour at 3pm.
It's 3:50. Planned itinerary for December 28th:
land in Dublin, rent Ka, drive to and enjoy a couple of hours at Glendalough
, drive through and enjoy the Wicklow mountain scenery, arrive in Kilkenny late afternoon, check into guesthouse, catch a tour of Smithwicks or the castle if still open, enjoy a night out in Kilkenny, sample the hometown beer at a nice Irish pub or two. Actual itinerary for December 28th:
land in Dublin, rent Ka, watch my brother hobble to and curl up in the backseat of the ka, drive less scenic, more direct route to Kilkenny, pull over once so that Todd can be violently ill, get to Kilkenny, check in to guesthouse, collapse on bed, take short solo walk into town as sun is setting, eat soup alone, back to bed
praying to St. Patrick that the soup stays where it belongs. Meant to see in Kilkenny:
an Anglo-Norman castle first built in the 12th century, a 300-year-old brewery housed in an 800-year-old Abbey, a pub of any shape, size or age. Actually saw in kilkenny:
the inside of two Topaz (gas station/quickie mart) stations, the outside of one castle, the Smithwicks brewery
through a wrought iron fence, a pub from the road. I should mention that the town is a really lovely place to walk around, even in the pelting rain.
I found my way back to the guesthouse in the dark (shockingly) and went upstairs to see if anyone was still breathing. Jeff said 'uuugghhh, what time is it?'. I said '8 o'clock'. He said 'IN THE MORNING?' I said 'no, dum dum, at NIGHT' to which he said nothing and went back to sleep. Todd snored.
Queue party anthem music.
The morning came around and I was feeling victoriously at about 80%, Todd got out of bed ready to go see something or die trying, Jeff was dying without trying to see anything. Working with a late-rising sun and an 11am
Posting it again because for three days he looked like this.
check-out time, Todd and I wandered down to town, tried to go on a tour of Kilkenny Castle
and found that a misbehaving computer was going to prevent that from happening. Instead we were instructed to enjoy a short film about the castle in one of its stone turrets. When the movie was finished we were to return to see if the computer was going to allow us to see the actual castle; sadly by the time the video was finished we were bumping up against check-out time.
That was ok since the cool trend of our Ireland trip is suddenly to see as little as possible.
Instead we enjoyed a walk around the castle grounds which look like a giant golf fairway. They must have a huge lawn mower.
When we got back I offered to Jeff that we could hole up in Kilkenny for another night and skip Kenmare altogether. He stubbornly said 'no' and I've learned not to argue.
The deal with this trip is that we only had 7 days on the ground. I had pre-booked things so that we wasted as little time as possible hunting down accommodations.
comes with backpack straps - if you break down you can just carry it
That can be a drag. The itinerary for the trip, as mentioned above, was ambitious but, with healthy bodies and only remotely wretched weather, was doable if not a little rushed.
Getting to Kenmare on the 29th would set us up to drive the Ring of Kerry, one of those 'must-do' things on a trip to Ireland. Though another few hours in the car, I figured we could stop at the Rock of Cashel
along the way to break up the drive. Another 'must see' they tell us.
We rolled into the empty Rock of Cashel parking lot, balked at the money it cost to park in an empty lot, went to (not) use (the only) (locked) restrooms and gazed in awe up at the scaffolding surrounding the majority of the otherwise (using my imagination) picturesque 12th century castle.
Adding to the Irish experience, the winds were blowing at 40-50mph. I have no idea how the scaffolding, adorned with huge billowing banners attempting to mask the reality that you can't see the castle, didn't go sailing off on a killing spree through town.
We handed over more money, watched another video about another castle
and when that was done stepped through a little castle door and were very nearly blown to Scotland. A giant castle made of rock with no windows or roof to keep out the wind certainly does take the imagination backwards to what it must have been like to spend a winter on the Rock in the 1200s. I'm assuming there was a bitchin' roof back then and probably warm mutton and glasses of grog on the menu, but still. I think I would have promptly taken my sheep and made my way to the south of Portugal.
The Irish are tough buggers to put up with the English and those winters for thousands of years.
We wandered around the surprisingly green (and very pretty) grass-covered graveyard which was marked by plenty of celtic crosses, some old, some oddly new. Then we wandered around what is left of the castle, the parts accessible during the renovation, anyway. Finally we wandered, wind-blown and battered back down the hill to the Ka which, for all its 8 cubic feet of shared space, was a welcome shelter in the wind.
We reached Kenmare via some lovely roads with strange speed limits
(local people, imagine the speed limit on McElmo Road being 65mph) in the late afternoon and found our way to our guesthouse-above-a-pub for the night. We were greeted by a gentlemen who looked truly baffled to see us, knew nothing of the reservation, and was completely flustered to be faced with our need of a room. Regardless, he graciously showed us up to one which was about 4 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. I tried to get the heat to work to no avail and returned downstairs to ask the poor confused bartender if he could turn it on for me. He announced that it WAS on and walked away. Too tired to argue I returned to the menfolk defeated and found them rallying to venture outside. Back in the lobby the bartender asked 'So yer heat is warkin now?' I said nope and the poor thing ran off once again to figure things out.
We did a circuit of the town, picturesque in it's well-kept and brightly-painted store fronts. Jeff was seriously tempted to go visit the Turkish barber just to see what the result would be. The town was quiet; this is a time of year
when the Irish enjoy a tourist-free environment and take over the pubs for themselves, people back in their home towns for Christmas visiting with old friends. We headed out for food (ravenous) and then to a pub (tirsty) and finally ordered our first stouts.
Jeff engaged the chatty bartender into spilling the beans about her observations of people from the US. 'Well', she said, 'one ting I can say fer sure is the way you use yer fark. You use it far EVERYting, cooting and eating. None of ya use the knife yoor given. And another ting - you Americans never say PLEASE, always a tank you, but never please.' We thought about these things and turns out they're both true. I rarely use a knife and when I ask for a beer at the bar I imagine it usually comes out as 'could I have a Murphy's?' We made a note to start throwing in some pleases to bookend our tank-yous. Jeff made her say terty tree. As in 'how old would you be after you're thirty-two? For the whole trip, the whole 'th' thing (ting) never got old.
We watched in horror as woman after woman in the bar ordered Coors Light on ice. Thinking about buying stock in my home-state's brew now that I know what a passion the women of Ireland have for it. On ice. Yikes.
We capped off the evening by squinting at the 8" TV back in the room and watched a little Father Ted (think three Irish Benny Hills dressed up as priests) which quickly became a fan favorite.
Tomorrow, the glorious, fabulous, not to be missed, view-o-phile delight Ring of Kerry...and then onward to Dingle to visit the berry farm.