I split my time for the first and only full day in Cork between exploring the city and the country. In the morning after moving out of the apartment, I had breakfast at the hotel and then walked across the city to a little place called Gael Taca. The building looked kind of like a café and I was confused as to why our last lecture of the trip was at a coffee house and not a college or reception room. Once we sat down though, I learned that the building is actually a center that hosts events and programs to promote and teach the Gaelic language. Our lecture focused on the roots and modern day usage of Gaelic. Gaelic is the official language of Ireland, even though most everyone uses English. Before the Normans and the English conquered Ireland, Gaelic was the only language used. Once the Irish realized that they would need English for business, law medicine and trade the upper class learned English and it trickled down from there. English then began to be looked at as the predominate language and it was looked down upon to use Gaelic, until about the early 1900’s was there was a large revival movement brought about my writers and scholars to bring back Gaelic. Nowadays, students must take Gaelic classes through their primary and secondary schooling. This is a much-debated topic because Gaelic is not spoken in conversation on a daily basis, except in isolated towns throughout the country so many parents find it to be a useless subject. From there, we were able to learn some Gaelic phrases and even though they are extremely difficult to pronounce and they look and sound so different, we had some good craic (fun) while we were learning it.
After we left the language center, we headed to the Cork English Market to find some food. The market is a giant farmers market featuring fresh baked goods, fruits, vegetables and meats. Since it wasn’t practical to buy anything as we can’t cook or bring it home on the plane, we headed upstairs to the café for a quick lunch.
We had the afternoon off until about 6 pm, and all of the girls were talking about how much time we had spent in cities over the past week and a half. We were really craving the beauty and serenity of the Irish countryside and I brought up the fact that the Blarney Castle was about a 20-minute bus ride outside of Cork. We were all dying to see an Irish castle and what better castle than Blarney itself. Even though it is definitely a tourist attraction, it didn’t bother us at all. As soon as we arrived at the castle grounds, we were blown away by the beauty and landscaping. Everything was lush, and right in the center of the grounds was the castle.
We decided to forgo the neighboring gardens and caves and head right for the main attraction. We took so many pictures and then put our cameras away as we climbed an extremely narrow, spiral staircase in the middle of the castle to reach the top. When we got to the top of the castle there were panoramic views of the castle grounds. I could see flowers, grass and trees for miles and even in the distance there were some cows and houses on the hills.
We waited in line to kiss the all famous Blarney Stone, which is supposed to give anyone that kisses it eloquence for life. In order to kiss it, you have to lie on your back, grab onto two handrails, and pull yourself back until your lips can reach the wall. Luckily there is a guide there to hold you and help you reach the wall. Some of the girls decided not to kiss it, but I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I decided not to look down and just went for it, and even left a red lipstick mark on the stone. I was so glad I did it, and even bought the souvenir photo at the gift shop, I know, I’m tacky, but when in Rome. We took some group photos and then ran to the bus stop to catch the bus back to Cork.
Once we were back we were able to relax for about an hour and a half before heading across town to kayak down the River Lee. Anyone that knows me even halfway well knows I HATE kayaking (bad experience in Florida when I was attacked by a pelican). But this river looked calm and goes right down the center of the city, so I knew I would give it another go. They were double kayaks so Sarah and I were kayaking partners. Once everyone was in their kayaks the guys in charge of leading the group realized they were one kayak short and the only one they had left was at the top of the marina. Of course Sarah and I were the one’s who needed this kayak so when the guy went to grab the kayak we quickly realized he wouldn’t be bringing it down to the docks and our jaws dropped as we watched him launch our perfect little red kayak off the marina into the River Lee 50 feet below. We sat down in our sopping wet kayak and began to follow the group. Already soaking wet, we became even more frustrated when our kayak wouldn’t go straight and it was funny for about 10 minutes, but once we were about halfway down the river we were so angry that our kayak was zigzagging that it was more of an annoyance than a funny conversation starter. We even decided to name our kayak the Silent Stinker because for the majority of the way down we sat in silence at the sheer terribleness of our kayak. Once we arrived at the part of the river that was our ending point, we turned around and began to paddle back to the docks. On the way back it was downstream so Sarah and I began having some more fun once our kayak decided to cooperate and we didn’t have to work as hard to move the Silent Stinker down the River Lee. Once we arrived at the docks though, we were overjoyed and couldn’t wait to walk back to the hotel to take a warm shower and eat some dinner. By the time we were all ready to head out to eat is was about 10 pm so we figured it would be quick, easy and cheap to go to the chicken place the door down from the hotel. This place was named Hillbilly’s and it lived up to the name, but we were so hungry that we didn’t even care what we were eating. After dinner I crashed from the full day of activities we had had and decided to go to bed so that I could enjoy my last full day in Ireland as we are taking a train back to Dublin tomorrow morning. Even though I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Cork and it wasn’t my favorite city, it is still nice to say that I visited and that I survived yet another awful kayaking experience; this time abroad.
All Photography by Emily Houston