Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Hello Readers,
This last weekend we took advantage of the three day Bank Holiday weekend to travel to Cork, Ireland.  We were previously in Ireland here but enjoyed it so much we wanted to go back.  Plus Lori wanted to suck on the Blarney Stone and some other ex-pats visited Cork and liked it so we travelled back to Ireland.  I'm still not sure what a Bank Holiday is but England/UK has about five a year so we put them to good use during our stay.

We had an early flight out of Birmingham (OZZZZIEEEEE!!!!) on Saturday morning.  Now I knew that we would have issues with places closed on Sunday and the Bank Holiday Monday so the itinerary was very flexible.  What I was not prepared for was us being the only plane passengers without gray hair.  I knew Cork wasn't a prime Bank Holiday spot based upon my research but I didn't expect it to be Oldpeopleville (no offence to my seasoned readers).  Not that I have anything against the experienced folk, it just typically is not a good sign when no families like us are going where we are headed.  And my concern was justified as Cork and surrounding didn't even live up to my lowly expectations.

After flying into Cork airport on Aer Lingus and riding the Bus Eirann Airport Coach to the city centre we started walking to our B&B just outside the city.  The location looked closer online than when we started walking it.  I looked it up after our trip and we were actually over a mile outside of Cork and almost two miles to the train station for our Cobh day.  At least we had dry days for our long walks. 

Dana Johnson Pic - Welcoming afternoon tea (coffee in our case) at Garnish House (link), our B&B for the trip.  A fine establishment that served us well on our stay.  A bonus of this place was they had a taxi deal to Blarney Castle, 12 Euros each way or about half price of a normal taxi.     

Welcome to Blarney Castle (Wiki link). 
We had a beautiful day to walk the grounds and see the castle although we only walked a part of the grounds since we told the taxi to pick us up in three hours.

The keep was built in 1446.  One of the info boards said the keep has never been taken in battle partly thanks to the sapping resistant solid rock base.  Another board said the castle is the third structure on the site after a 10th C hunting lodge and a 1210 AD stone structure.

Looking up at the Blarney Stone (near the opening) which is actually part of the wall construction.  The two metal bars are holding the stone in place. 

Walking along the castle battlements.  The Poison Garden is on the left.

An English wording note for my Aunt Joanie.

Lori's turn sucking on the Blarney Stone (Wiki link).  We all took turns boosting our immune systems by sucking on the same stone that a million people before us have already sucked on.  It was as underwhelming as I thought it would be.  Kissing the Stone is supposed to endow the person with the gift of gab.

The Blarney Stone is the bottom of the wall, you can kind of see the stone outline.

Looking down on the grounds from the top of the keep.

Looking at the hollowed-out four levels of the castle.  This is one of those places that require you to do more imagining of what it used to look like instead of seeing remnants of what used to be.

Lori standing in the Living Room.

After the short hollowed-out castle tour was a meander through the Poison Garden, an educational garden which was supposed to show people some poisonous plants founds in gardens and the wild.  Kind of odd I thought.

We found the rhubarb plant interesting.
Board close up.  Consider us educated.

Interesting rocks on one of the walking paths.

Badger's Cave, one of the secret passages out of the castle.

We walked in a bit but stopped when it required use of a torch, or flashlight to the Yanks.
We only saw a small section of the grounds due to our time restraint but did enjoy what we saw.  I enjoyed them as much as the bland castle actually.  But now it was time for lunch and a little shop browsing before our taxi returned for us.

Dana Johnson Pic - Bacon and cabbage is what I ordered.  I didn't expect the white sauce though.  As part of my disappointment the food here wasn't as good as we had on our first Ireland trip.  BBQ ribs and crab cakes rounded out the meals and they all made us miss American food.

Kevin Coleman Pic - I had to have a Guinness of course.
Since we had the taxi we had him drop us off in the Shandon area which saved us a few uphill steps.  It was late afternoon and could only fit in one more stop so we chose the Cork Butter Museum (link).  In our quest for different attractions this certainly tops the list.  I honestly never expected to see a museum on butter in my lifetime so thought why not?  The OAP (Old Age Pensioner, what Brits call old people) manning the till was an experience.  After telling him five times how old the kids were and him saying "what, I can't hear so good anymore" we just said okay and paid what he told us to pay.  Karl ended up getting in free even though we told the guy we needed to pay for him but we finally just quit arguing with him.  He also said he couldn't see very well either.  Not sure manning the museum entrance is the job for him anymore.
Butter packaging.  The small bottom floor had packaging samples, butter making devices, a film and interactive info screens.
Glass Tabletop Churns which were used by households for making a day's batch of cream and butter.  They also had larger wooden churns.

A Butter Working Table, these were invented in the 1870's.  The table would have been used to work out the moisture which helped the bacteria grow (bad for butter that was shipped to other continents) and also for an even distribution of the salt addition step.  One of the problems with using wooden tables and churns was the occasional splinter in the batch.
Upstairs was the interesting info boards explaining the importance of butter to the Cork region.

Coopering facts for the curious.  In addition to butter the greater Cork region shipped meat, beer and whiskey out of Ireland in all weather conditions which required expertly made casks.  In the early 1800's butter was shipped from Cork to North America, the Caribbean, northern Africa, and all over western Europe.
I never would have guessed that butter transportation would require a country to improve their roads but it did.  Ireland also passed specific butter legislation regulating butter weighing, cask identification markings, and grades of butter. 

I also didn't know that the Cork area was the world's largest butter market in the 1800's.

More interesting butter facts.

I never saw what the different grades of butter meant, i.e. who used what grade.

We also learned about cattle raiding which was an illegal but honourable activity.

This guy covered a lot of ground on his raids.

After the compact butter Museum we walked around Shandon and Cork a bit before calling it a night.

St. Anne's Shandon Church was closed by now.  The tower has a clock on each side but they all tell different times so the church is also referred to as The Four Faced Liar.

Cork did have some colourful and oddly shaped buildings.
Dana Johnson Pic - Extra cheese and extra pepperoni pizza... life is good.  We found a great little Italian café named Uncle Pete's (link) which was our best meal in Cork.  The pepperoni was a little spicy for Lori but she otherwise liked her cheese-less pizza.  Kalle had a vegetable cannelloni she didn't like (bad menu choice) while Karl and I shared the artery blocker above.  At least we ended the day on a high note. 
Our Sunday itinerary was a trip to Cobh then see some more of Cork.

Dana Johnson Pic - Omelets.  Mmmmm.  This really reminded us of American breakfasts.  The English bacon and hash brown sides I could do without but my ham, mushroom, onion and cheese omelet was great.  The advertised award winning breakfast was much better than expected.  Now that I think of it the breakfasts may have been the highlight of the trip.  Except for the slow service which took forever although I think it was because Karl ordered porridge as a starter.  Food service is typically slow over here and turns glacially slow when ordering multiple courses.  We did not order any starters the next morning and we didn't seem to wait as long.
Our room was actually one of the bedrooms in the green house across the street from the B&B.  Smallish room but big enough for us so we were happy with our stay. 

One of the Cork To Do's was walk Patrick Street, see Father Theobald Matthew's statue, see Patrick Bridge and look up St. Patrick Hill.  This picture captures all of those items.  Pretty special huh?  Looks like Anytown USA to me.  I have started taking travel site ratings with a grain of salt since we have seen so much already but the Cork sites ratings were especially misleading.  When the breakfast meal is the trip highlight you know the city/attractions are a little overrated.

Father Theobald Matthew (Wiki link), a temperance reformer. 

Tammy Foster Pic - Walking to the train station we crossed the River Lee.  It looks like today's weather won't be quite as nice as yesterday.  Cork also didn't have the scenic river walks or houses we have seen in other places.  One of the other things I noticed here are all of the plain or just downright ugly bridges in Cork.  I don't expect them all to be new or fancy but almost every other place we have been to has nicer bridges.  I think these bridges were designed based upon which material was on sale at the time.  
We are on the train ride to Cobh (pronounced cove) now.  It must have been low tide as the sand was saturated near the shore.  Kinda makes you want to jump off the train and walk on the river bed barefoot.
Cobh was our next stop for a few of reasons.  First, Cork is pretty boring.  Second, it has a Titanic connection and we have done a few Titanic related activities already so were curious to see the connection in Cobh.  Third, Cork is really boring.
What Titanic connection you ask?  The last passengers boarded in Queenstown, Ireland.

Statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers.  Annie was the first immigrant through the new immigration centre on Ellis Island, New York on January 1, 1892.  There is also a statue of Annie at Ellis Island per the info board behind her.
We stopped at the Cobh Heritage Center (link) but didn't want to spend 20 Euros to see four tiny rooms of exhibits so we read the free stuff outside the centre.

We learned about Frank Browne in Belfast.  You can read about him and his photography hobby here.

Mail travelled on these ocean liners then, the Titanic collected almost 1,400 sacks of mail at Queenstown.

Disaster averted only to be encountered in the Atlantic.

St. Colman's Cathedral overlooking the harbour.

Cobh had the typical colourful fishing town houses.

Houses overlooking Cobh harbour.  For some reason I like touring sea faring towns.
Our next stop was Titanic Experience Cobh (link).  It was a lot of what we saw in Liverpool and Belfast only on a much smaller scale.  We still liked it however as it had more of a Cobh perspective to it.  The down side was no photographs inside some of the rooms but I think I've already posted the first and third class cabins, lifeboat sections, and re-enacted ship footage so I wasn't to bummed.  We did learn that 123 people boarded at Queenstown and 44 of those people survived the sinking.  When you purchased the ticket you were given a "boarding pass" of a Queenstown passenger and after the exhibit you could look up what happened to your passenger.  We all survived the sinking - YEAH!

The dock that the people boarded the tenders, or small boats that brought people out to the Titanic.  It was anchored past the islands you see in the distance.  It stayed at Queenstown about two hours before departing to its doom.

Where it anchored.

The design flaw of the watertight compartments.

We learned at an earlier stop that an officer mistakenly took the binoculars home with him when he disembarked at Cherbourg, France.

The path of the Titanic.  Belfast is where the ship was built then it stopped at Southhampton, Cherbourg, and Queenstown before setting off for New York.
Gilbert's Restaurant was our lunch stop before the cathedral.

An Irish Coffee (coffee, Jameson's Whiskey and cream).  Reminded us of our San Fran trip with the Foster's.  Food was okay.
After lunch we checked the time on the receipt (I don't wear a watch anymore and Lori wasn't wearing hers) and saw that we could either catch the next train to Cork in about half an hour or the train after that which was two hours.  Not wanting to spend a lot of time here we wrote off looking at the area around St. Colman's Cathedral and walked back to the train station. 

The Lusitania Memorial.  Many of the survivors and dead were brought here, there is a cemetery on the hill where 170 of the dead were buried. 

I darted up the hill for this Cobh Bay picture.  Straight out is where the Titanic docked on its maiden voyage.

After sitting at the train station for a while we decided to check the time as we thought the train should have arrived from Cork by now.  Lori checked the time on the iPad and found it to be an hour later than we thought it was.  Turns out when I looked at the time on the receipt it was the time we sat down and not the time we paid.  Oops.  We are in No Man's Land now, the train is still half an hour away from arriving but that probably isn't enough time to make it up to St. Colman's and look around properly.  So we just hung around the station and talked to a couple of the blokes for a while.  They gave us a suggestion on the evening activities, Cork was hosting an International Choral Festival in multiple buildings around the city so we could see/hear some chorus' performing that night.  Chorus music isn't really high on our interest list (we never seem to hit the rocking wine festivals that the Schetzel's find) but since Cork was so unimpressive so far we thought we'd give it a try.  

After arriving back in Cork we walked to the city centre where I spotted this advertisement.  Good beer with better slogans, I like Heineken.

Walking past St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 1832 AD.

We arrived at the Clarion and listened to a couple of songs which confirmed that chorus music isn't for us.  Plus it was packed so we didn't want to stand any longer.

Memorial to those who died in the fight for Irish independence from 1916-1923.

Tammy Foster Pic - We are in older Cork now as we plod on towards St. Fin Barre's Cathedral (Wiki link).  We are walking over the South Channel of the River Lee. 

The front of the cathedral which is also called South Cathedral.  It was built between 1865-79 and stands on the site of a monastery founded by St. Fin Barre in the 7th C.  Fin Barre (Wiki link) is the patron saint of Cork, was abbot of the monastery on this site and was Bishop of Cork in the early 600's.

Burning offering (?) stonework.

The inside of the cathedral.  There was also a Choral Festival site so I stayed for about five pictures and left.

Baptismal font.  I like looking at the different baptismal fonts.

Matching burning offering (?) stained glass. 
Dana Johnson Pic - We passed an Italian place on the walk to Fin Barre's so we double back and tried it.  I think I am done with spaghetti carbonara for a while now.  Everyone else's meals were similarly disappointing just like the rest of Cork. 

A row of colourful houses on Western Road as we walked back to our B&B.  Kind of frustrating being here on a Sunday and Bank Holiday when a lot of places close early or shut down for the day. 
On Monday we slept in, had another great breakfast, and planned the day.  The only "highly rated" attraction we missed was the City Gaol but after touring the other "highly rated" sites the last two days we decided not to waste our time.  Instead we opted for a Shandon area walk.  Fortunately we were only here for the weekend so our luggage was easy to drag along.   
Along the way we saw St. Francis Church of Cork so I pulled the group in.  This was a newer church, building started in 1949 and was completed in 1953.  I didn't know anything about it but it did have a beautiful mosaic behind each of the altars with main altar having the most impressive mosaic.  It was also slightly colourful which was a change from the last few plain Gothic and neo-Gothic churches we have seen.

 The exterior.

Church interior in landscape view. 

Church interior in portrait view.

Veronica and Jesus on the Via Dolorosa.  I like comparing similar items for some reason so today I decided to compare how the different churches on our walk show the stations of the Via Dolorosa.

Requisite stained glass window. 

Main altar from the side.

Mosaic St. Patrick.

Mosaic St. Fin Barre (his name is spelled about six different ways for some reason).

Looking back at the entrance.

Side altar.  I liked the marble railing in front.

Altar area from the middle of the nave.
After exiting the church we continued on to our walk starting point.  For the walk we had to walk it backwards as we were closer to the finish point and the bus station was closer to the start point.  It only took me a couple of stops to figure out how far to read ahead without confusing myself.  The walk was a nice way to spend a couple of hours but wasn't particularly noteworthy.

Crossing Griffin Bridge with St. Anne's Shandon Church in the distance.
The girls lugging their share of the luggage up Shandon Street.  This was 'the spine of the city's commercial life in the 18th century.  Such was the scale of the beef trade that the area was known as the "slaughterhouse of Ireland".'

Gable front buildings on Shandon Street.  Shandon Street is the oldest continually inhabited part of Cork and can be traced back to the 13th C as being a distinct area of Cork.

The Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne which is also called North Cathedral (link).  Construction started in 1799 and it was dedicated in 1808.  A parish church of St. Mary has existed here since 1306.

Looking past the Bapistry and down the nave towards the main altar.  I liked Florence's Bapistry better.

Same view in landscape to show the walls versus the ceiling.

Altar area close up.

Looking back at the entrance and organ.

On the right is Jesus and Veronica from the stations of the Via Dolorosa.

At first I didn't notice the detail in the ceiling.  the girls pointed it out to me.  "See what you see when you sit down" Kalle told me.
Next up is St. Anne's Shandon Church (link) which is open this time.  It was built in 1722 which makes it one of the oldest buildings in Cork and is the oldest continually used church in the city.  The big draw is ringing the bells (for a small fee of course) but we only looked around the interior.

The small choir.

Jay Seppanen Pic - And who is guarding the choir?  My buddies!  Way to go guys. 

The quaint interior.

I did like the stained glass pictures.

The Butter Exchange is now an art studio or market.  The Butter Museum is the cream building on the left with the orange door.
We worked up a coffee thirst by now so we stopped at a small café where I had the best latte I've had in a while.  Plus we were slowly pacing ourselves to eat up the morning and sitting here for a short break helped accomplish the goal.

Looking down Exchange Street with the Butter Exchange dominating your left and the Four Faced Liar towering on your right.  North Cathedral meekly points its spires above the buildings in the distance.

Annie Moore's house before she immigrated to New York.
Tammy Foster Pic - Shandon Bridge, another low cost river crossing.

A pre-1750 AD Queen Anne style building.

Some of the pubs had huge artwork on their faces.  I liked this painter.

Saints Peter and Paul's Catholic Church (link) was built in 1879.

Looking down the nave towards the altar.

Jesus and Veronica again.

Looking across the dark wood decorated church.

Looking back towards the entrance.  Nothing really special here, I just like to look at churches.

Our walk ends on Daunt's Square which dates the early 18th C as one of the city expansion points to the marsh in the east.

The English Market, another attraction closed on Sunday and Monday.  Oh well, time for lunch then home.

Dana Johnson Pic - Sausage lunch with potatoes.  Another easily forgotten meal.
After lunch we walked to the bus station to wait for the airport bus.  The bus and plane rides were uneventful and we landed in Birmingham (OZZZZIEEEEE!!!!) Airport for the final time.  A strange feeling to walk through the terminal for the last time considering how many times we have used it.  Another part of the assignment cycle I guess.  We have a couple more trips left but are flying out of Manchester (to Greece) and London Gatwick (to Reykjavik) before finally departing England from London Heathrow.  Time and travellers fly when they are having fun! 

Thanks for listening,


  1. I don't think you need to worry about getting that job at the Cork Visitor's Centre.

    Sounds like a bit of a dud weekend, or at least not spectacular. Too bad. (Should have gone west like we did. :-)

    At least you had the Butter Museum. That's unique.

    Be sure to check out the Pencil Museum in Keswick this weekend if you need to dry off.

    1. I thought we did go west... I think you may be momentarily discombobulated.

      We'll check out the Pencil Museum if we get driven inside. It would be nice to get a couple of walks in but with the weather forecast we'll see.

    2. Well, Killarney, Dingle and Galway are further west . . .

  2. Was the Irish Coffee in Ireland better than the one in San Fran? Looks as yummy - was the glass pre-warmed like they did for us that day? I guess chalk the weekend up to not every place being the most amazing trip ever. Rest assured some of us would still love to be able to travel as you are doing.

    1. Tasted very similar, more of a coffee taste in the beginning and more of an "Irish" taste in the end. It was nice to see the area even tho it was kind of a dud weekend.