Reflections and images from my travels

Killarney to Kilkenny

We awoke refreshed after another long sleep in Killarney. Murphy’s Guesthouse was surprisingly quiet compared to the street front bar which was loud and raucous. The Guesthouse is built up from the street level and set back from it which contributes to it’s quietness. The only thing is we left a slight break in the curtains and a bright beam of light coming through that break blinded me as I opened my eyes that morning.

My name today is Padraig O’Murphy. OK we just made that up!

Our road trip was to begin today but first breakfast. We had a nice, basic breakfast at the bar of our hotel which also served as the breakfast location for our Guesthouse. Just coffee, no G and T’s that morning. Anna would be taking most of the photos today as I had forgot to charge the camera last night. I did take a few photos with the iPhone which are included with this post.

We (should I say, I) decided to walk to where our rental car was parked for simplicity. There were a lot of one way streets in Killarney and it was easier just to leave town by walking to the car park.

It was about a 10 minute walk and we finally found our little red 5 door car- a Seat Ibiza- that we named “Midge”. This was in honour of the small biting insects that clearly liked Anna as she showed me her multiple itchy bites that morning.

It took us awhile to figure out how to get the rear hatch open but Anna finally figured it out. We packed up and were on our way. There is always some trepidation driving on the opposite side of the road especially with a manual transmission but I accommodated rather quickly.

Anna brought along “Stella”- our faithful Garmin automobile GPS- but, quickly determined she did not bring any maps so the device was of no use to us. We used my phone with data roaming which worked perfectly. We missed one of our first turns out of town and ended up going through the lovely road I had descended on my bike a few days prior on the east of Killarney tour.

We eventually connected with the main highway but then Google maps took us on some lovely countryside lanes which was great. Very little traffic and single track roads but very scenic. The only problem was it was so rural at some point we lost cellphone coverage so we had to guess a section prior to arriving in Blarney. Thankfully, when we picked up signal we had come the right way!

Our goal was to kiss the Blarney Stone (as if I don’t already have the gift of the gab). We did not know what to expect when we arrived. It was a well organized and developed tourist attraction. The parking was cheap and once we got in we found out the garden grounds surrounding the castle were huge!

A few tour buses were pulling in so we quickly went up to the Blarney Castle and got in line. Signs warned us it would take 60 minutes from our point in line to get up to the stone which was situated up at the top of the castle tower. I asked Anna if she really wanted to wait that long and she emphatically said yes! It was 100 steps to get to the top and the line moved slowly. We were get entertained by information plaques that explained the history of the castle. The very narrow, circular staircase to get to the top was the highlight of the climb. When you reached the top you were rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding grounds. Breathtaking!

It is a bit of a maneuver to actually kiss the stone. You lie on your back and then grab 2 metal bars on either side in back of you, slide towards the stone and then extend your neck back and ouch your face forward to plant one on the stone. We both did it. Mission accomplished and it took 60 minutes. They take pictures of you kissing the stone which you can purchase for a rather exorbitant price. Thankfully, they allowed you to take your own pictures of the blessed event.

After descending and exiting the castle we took a tour of the poison garden (a selection of plants with noxious and deadly properties), walked around the grounds and then Anna got an Irish Coffee in a “to go” cup and we quickly dispensed with the best crisps we have ever tasted (Shamrock and Sour Cream flavoured). Yum!

The walk around the extensive garden grounds was the highlight for us. So beautifully managed and representing different themes and micro-climates. Our favourite was the “Fern Forest”. We also passed by the Blarney House.

It was almost 4:30 PM by the time we finished up so we got back in “Midge” and drove onwards to Cork. It was a large city relative to the smaller centres we had stayed in to date. I survived the lethal one way streets but did go into the wrong lane once at a red light! We then parked by the city fire station and decided to walk to find a restaurant to have an early dinner at.

The section of the city we were in was lovely and very conducive to walking. We found a very quiet, narrow “lane” restaurant called Elbow Lane which had a smokehouse and it’s own microbrewery in the back. Perfect. The beer was fantastic and the ribs were delicious.

We had not really planned to spend much time in Cork, but, were happy we had stopped in. Each town/city in Ireland really deserved several days in order to appreciate their respective essences.

Midge then took us the rest of the way to Kilkenny. I made my second mistake driving today by going through a red light at a confusing intersection in town but thankfully there was no cross traffic! We arrived quite late at our hotel at about 9:30 PM but, of course, that left enough time to hit the bar at the Hibernian Hotel Kilkenny! Before hitting the bar, we had to park Midge. The hotel receptionist said there was a great deal on a nearby parkade just up the street for 3 day rate that was better than a 2 day rate. We found the car parkade easily and spoke to the attendant who confirmed this. Wonderful. We then proceeded to park the car and sat looking at the gate which refused to open. We were on CCTV and the attendant must of thought we were thick because he came out to insert a master card to let us in. I had neglected to look right for the card entry machine because no one of good sense drives on the left had side of the road. Fine. We figured, fine, just park the car and get to the bar- our natural habitat. We exited the vehicle with our luggage but had to park on Level 3. We looked around and saw a nearby door and proceeded towards it. Obviously, it would lead us to a stairwell. I tried to push it open but it was locked. There was a button on the right side of the door protected by a plastic cover and with an odd sign (they sort of looked like ……….stylized ……flames) below it. I begged Anna, no, we do not understand what that sign means and maybe this is not the way out. She swiped my hand away and looked at me with disdain. “I know all” she trumpeted. She lifted the plastic cover and proceeded to push the button with extreme prejudice and with a maniacal laughter. Promptly, the blaring fire alarm started wailing. Another couple in a vehicle parking their car at the same time looked at us suspiciously and locked their doors.

We were so embarrassed. We then walked down the ramp and as we were leaving the car park we could see the attendant feverishly working an electrical panel trying to get the alarm to cease. There was a crowd of locals gathered on the street who came to see what All of the commotion was all about. I am sure there has not been this much excitement in Kilkenny since the Middle Ages! We felt so bad for the attendant.

To be honest, that’s not how it went down at all! Anna was not sure about the button and actually pointed out the stylized flames to me (it was Greek to me at that point), but, I encouraged her to lift the plastic cover and push the button the bling it was an after hours door release. She unfortunately followed my advice! Writer’s license………!

We went back to the hotel bar where a great duo was playing Irish music and steadily increased their playing volume as there was this annoying alarm from outside drowning them out! Once Anna sat down and had an ale she recalled the event and had a deep, dirt belly laugh that must of gone on for 5 minutes! It was all very therapeutic l. We closed down the bar at about 10:45 PM. The local Kilkenny draught was excellent!

Even though the day had not been that active, we were still tired and fell into a deep slumber.

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