…with [none] of the folks from home. So, lads and lassies, it is my final post for 2012! I had intended to write up two more after this, one featuring Corkian Christmas festivities and one featuring a now-unspecified adventure that I didn’t have because I am feeling rather weighed down by end of semester blahs and a decent essay load. The essays are done, and so are the blahs, but with my plane taking off on Sunday, I don’t have enough time for anything but packing! Ergo, here ensues one highly squashed-together post.
As of December 3rd, I had the necessary paperwork to apply for my Italian visa for next semester, and the Italian ambassador was back in the office, so I scheduled a trip to the consulate in Dublin. Instead of taking a direct route, of course, I seem to have circumnavigated all of southern Ireland. On Friday, December 7th, I loaded up my backpack with a few clothes and several tons of essay writing material (think laptop, books, notebooks, more books, a few more notebooks) and veritably staggered to the bus station, where I purchased a ticket to Killarney. It wasn’t a terribly long trip, and, having learned from my trip to Waterford, I had only a few blocks to walk before I reached my bed and breakfast. It was already dark, so I dropped off my backpack and headed out for a walk around town. All the streets were lit up and Christmas cheer was in the air. Unfortunately, so was money.
After nearly an hour of wandering, I was rather resigned to spending €20 on a meal; clearly, Killarney was geared toward tourists who were willing to spend that much. However, before I drained my bank account, I came across a Chinese restaurant serving good food for low prices. I ordered and proceeded to select a table, at which point the hostess protested, “No, no! The sit down menu is this one here!” Oh. Two courses, €25. I told her never mind; I would rather have the takeaway meal. Am I crazy for assuming that crab/sweet corn soup and duck in orange glaze would warrant a sit-down meal? It was the strangest takeaway meal I have ever had, and I ate it sitting in my hotel room, staring at my laptop screen and willing an essay to type itself.
I woke up Saturday morning to a grey sky, but, by the time I had enjoyed a full Irish breakfast, courtesy of the hotel kitchen, the weather had cleared. I headed off to St. Mary’s Church for a bit of touring. I was surprised to find that it was chock full, so I stayed outside and changed course, aiming for Killarney National Park instead. I don’t know quite how large the park is, but it is riddled with fun walking paths. These paths cross open fields and dense, rather boggy woods. One can travel around the park in a horse-drawn cart or on horseback, but, if you don’t mind walking, the park trails make for a good hike. I followed the road signs to Ross Castle. The castle loomed through the grey tree trunks, and
ravens croaked from the heights. As I walked around the bend, the horror movie setting was rather ruined by the cars in the parking lot and the children on the castle lawns; nonetheless, it remained an impressive monument by the lake shore.
The castle was built in the 15th century by the O’Donoghues. Like Blarney Castle, it has changed hands several times. Unlike Blarney Castle, however, Ross Castle continued to serve a military purpose up until the 19th century. Between the passing centuries and the erected military barracks, the structure now has little resemblance to its original design. I can’t speak for any close-up view of the design myself since the castle was closed for the winter. So, I continued on around the lake for a ways,
coming eventually to a bit of rock called the Governor’s Stone (I think; there was no plaque). I couldn’t decided whether the stone was a cubist execution block or a highly uncomfortable chair. Either way, it was out in the middle of nowhere! I enjoyed taking in the isolated scenery before turning around and heading back into town. I stopped at St. Mary’s Church, this time wholly empty, before eating lunch, picking up my backpack, and returning to the bus station. From there, I headed on to Tralee.
The Rose of Tralee was not in town, and I missed the August rose celebration by several months. Nonetheless, I enjoyed walking around the gardens and the various notable churches of the town. I stopped for some afternoon tea and pulled out my laptop to book a room for the evening in Limerick, my next destination. I found nary a room available under €200, so I booked a room in Tralee instead. While I had intended Saturday as my “going-out” night, my essays hadn’t written themselves the evening before. I gritted my teeth, tied myself to the chair, and started typing.
I missed the bus I wanted out of Tralee Sunday morning and purchased a train ticket to Limerick instead, a counterproductive arrangement. Instead of going northwest, the train rolled southeast, back toward Cork. I changed trains at Mallow and ended up standing in the join between two cars, nose to nose with the other passengers in quite a trans-Ireland crush. If I closed my eyes and leaned against the flexible wall, I felt rather as if I were at sea. It was a relief to get off at Limerick Junction! The train to Limerick, in contrast, was almost empty. It was starting to rain when I arrived in Limerick, but I ignored the weather and headed into the city center, following the road signs toward King John’s Castle. Along the way, I stopped at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 12th century and is one of the few really old
churches in Ireland that still offers services. One might think that its continued functionality would indicate that it was occupied on Sunday. Wrong! The doors were locked and the normal entrances were blocked by construction work. Disappointed, I continued on down the street and around the
corner, hoping that King John’s Castle was open to the public. It was equally locked and barred, and its high walls and narrow windows made it look particularly unassailable. I stopped at a few more sightseeing attractions, but winter appears to be the “Go away!” season in Limerick. By this point, my jeans were wet and my hood, which I in my wisdom left down, had become a portable pond. I was feeling rather resentful toward the city as I trudged back to the train station. At the time, I was composing gloomy limericks about Limerick that I intended to post here, but I fear I’ve forgotten them. Anyway, I took advantage of the powerful hand dryers in the train stations to dry off my backpack, my coat, and my hair before boarding the train to Dublin.
I won’t bore you with details of my time at the Dublin Italian Consulate, although I will say that, if you wish to apply for a visa of any sort, it is much easier to do from within the EU than from without. The process would have taken up to two months in the States, but it only took about two days in Ireland—or maybe a few more since my passport was mailed to me once it was stamped. Anyway, I stayed in the lovely Waterloo House, a bed and breakfast in a Georgian style building. Once I finished visa-ing on Monday, I met up with a friend for lunch at the Queen of Tarts (ahem, the kind the knave stole from Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, not the other kind). It’s a small tea shop with fabulous meals and even better desserts (think cinnamon cake and lots of chocolate). Then, as it was growing dark, I took a bus back to the train station and returned to Cork.
Here, I’m going to add just a few notes about Corkian Christmas celebrations. While Cork’s Christmas Market isn’t nearly as big as Belfast’s, it is still a lively one. It is open every weekend from the 1st of December until Christmas. From the times I have visited, I gather that the Market has live
performances nearly every night. The first time I stopped by, a group was performing some jazzy Christmas arrangements, but the last time I visited, it was a Britney Spears sound-alike special. There are lights up all around the area, and all of the shop fronts have some lovely (and, let’s face it, some not-so-lovely) Christmas displays.
So, folks, this is the last of my blog posts from Ireland. I hope to return to the forum in mid-January, when I will begin my adventures in Italy. Thanks for reading; I hope it was as enjoyable as the writing was. As I sit in the Dublin airport typing away on this post, I am grateful for my months here in Ireland. My entire semester has been grand, and I would love to return one day. While I am ready to go home for Christmas, I would also like a little more time here. I have seen a lot, done a lot, and fallen in love with the culture and the land. As for the weather…Well, let’s just say that Ireland had a parting shot to boot me out the door. As I was packing, I discovered mildew on my boots. Thanks a lot, Ireland! So it goes…
P.S. Before I sign off entirely, can I get some good luck wishes? Some go n-eirie leat‘s? I am currently experiencing one of the ultimate joys of travelling: the rescheduled flight. My 9:00 a.m. flight to Newark doesn’t leave until 7:00 p.m. tonight, which means that I will be home nearly 24 hours after I should be. This is putting a kink in my Christmas plans. I might not mind so much if I had gotten more sleep recently…Well, I hope others are having better travel luck!