Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Walking uphill BOTH ways...

Hola mis amigos-
Sorry I haven't been on this thing in a few days, it's been a busy few days.  So, that being said, sorry if this is long...

Where did we leave off? Ah yes, I was about to go to Blarney, Kinsale, and Cobh.  This was an interesting experience by myself, I must say, but I had a great time.  I went with the Paddywagon tour group which is basically a shuttle bus that is painted an obnoxious green color with a giant leprechaun on the side... SUPER IRISH!  I can't remember what our tour guide's name was but I am assuming it was Patrick or Sean or Liam or something like that.  Yes, I am stereotyping.  Anyways, off to Blarney we went.  The irish-mobile was full of Germans and me.  See here is where I kind of felt okay being alone because at least I spoke English.  This might sound harsh but hear me out... the Cork accent is a little odd and difficult to understand to the native English speaker, and while Patrick/Sean/Liam pronounced his words quite carefully, even I could have trouble understanding for a split second.  So, now imagine if you are German and speak terrible English... could be a little difficult to understand anything that is going on...

I have been to Blarney once before, about 3 years ago, with my family (minus Cason and Megs :( ).  Blarney is only about 20 minutes outside of Cork.  Actually some of my co-workers live in Blarney and commute to Cork.  Blarney is home of the famous Blarney Stone which is located in Blarney Castle, which is one of the best preserved castles in Ireland.  It is surrounded by vast gardens, including the Poison Garden and this weird witches area with a waterfall.  I climbed up the Castle to kiss the Blarney stone 3 years ago.  I DID NOT do it again and here is why:  to get to the top of Blarney Castle you have to climb about 1,000 uneven stone steps on a very narrow spiral staircase.  You basically feel like you might take one bad step and tumble down the stairs at any moment, or some giant tourist with a fanny pack might take you down on their way down.  Once you get to the top, however, it is absolutely gorgeous with stunning views of  County Cork.  To kiss the actual Blarney Stone you have to lay on your back and scoot backwards over a ledge while 2 locals hold your legs and you do a back bend and kiss the bottom stone on the wall, meanwhile you are hanging over a gap.  (see picture below from my previous trip).... ALL for the "gift of the gab" where you can speak blarney eloquently (or as we call it "bullshitting people well." and lord knows I don't need anymore help with that.
Blarney Castle

(Honey)Badger Cave

Part of the Poison Garden outside the Castle: The sign below says they are sorry for no plant (Cannabis) here because the Irish Garda (their police) confiscated it... hahaha.

From last trip... Yikes.  Yes, I did kiss it then, but looking at this pic jeebs me out bc the stone looks wet.

Next stop was Cobh:  Cobh is the main port in the Republic of Ireland since ships leaving the UK pass just under Co Cork it is an easy pick up point, which is why it was the second stop (after England) of the Titanic.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic so they had a museum in the town, which I was too cheap to pay for to see... Anyways- Fun Fact about the Irish and the Titanic: 123 Irish people were picked up from Cobh and only 40 survived.  Whoa.  Maybe Cobh is where Leo won those tickets only to have that beotch Rose not share her door-float with him...  Cobh was the port where the first known Irish lady set sail for Ellis Island.  Her name was Annie Moore; no relation.  They have a statue of her with her two brothers next to the Immigration museam, which I was also too cheap to go into.  I did however walk up to the top of the town to visit Colman's Cathedral, which was absolutely gorgeous and looked over Cork Bay.  Lucky for us it was very sunny when we were there, so I decided to take advantage of the sun and sit in a park on the bay for part of the stay.  Just trying to soak up the Vitamin D while I can... (it's cloudy and rainy a lot here).  Really the decision for part of the stay (after I walked through the whole town, went and saw the Statue of Annie Moore, etc) was between sun and pub, and while it might surprise everyone, I decided to choose sun and make my momma proud.      

Lastly we headed towards Kinsale, but by the time we got there we only had 30 minutes in the town so I plan to go back for a day in a couple of weekends.  Kinsale is a cute little medieval town on the water.  It is where the English fought the Irish and Spanish back in the William Wallace days (yes, I am aware Will was Scottish, but they had some of the same woes with England back then... remember the crazy Irish guy?)  The English apparently totally kicked the butts of the Irish/Spanish group, so they put up these two fortresses on either side of the channel to get into the bay.  Apparently they used to have a chain under the water, connecting the two forts, so when an enemy boat tried to come through they could tighten the chain and rip the bottom of the boat out.  Crazy medieval, knight, iron maiden kind of stuff.
Down there is Kinsale... This picture is taken from the Cathedral (I think)

The shuttle ride was great and everyone on the bus was friendly but this wouldn't be a blog post of mine without a little smart-ass Alli sprinkled in.  The tour guide had the radio on for our drive.  It was tuned to "Today's FM," but the songs that came on, while I thought they were pretty awesome and preferred them to actual today's "hits," were songs by Queen, Bryan Adams (who was commented by the DJ as the "hardest working man in showbiz," apparently he still tours? who knew?), Annie Lenox, the Beatles, etc... Kind of an eclectic group.  The song "Here Comes the Sun" came on and these two girls sitting next to me, remarking on how it had just been sprinkling on us and the sun was now coming out, said "Oh how fitting..." which, call my cynical, made me want to throw up in my mouth.  Ok, so that's it for my smart-ass cynicism for the day :)

Oh and we got to sing some pub songs... of course I knew the words... Thank you The Field Irish Pub and Eatery.  (shout out)

So, my first day of "work" was Monday.  I have an office, which I share with a girl named Rachel, with my own desk and computer! I feel so grown up.  Basically I work 9-5 M-F, kind of.  Let me explain... The people of Ireland enjoy an hour long "tea break" at 11am and then an hour long lunch break at 1pm, which I kind of dig.  I think Americans should adopt the tea break... which I work in an office of women, so it's really gossip hour.  I am learning A LOT about the Irish culture during this hour.  Also, I am learning a lot about the sexy Rugby players.  I need to start writing down the names they say so I can google them... Hmmm.  Monday and Tuesday were a bit slower, basically I was reading articles and manuals about how Ireland deals with Tuberculosis and other reportable infectious disease, but I won't bore you with any of those details.  You're welcome.  Oh and by the way- St Finnbar's is still a little creepy... No sightings yet but I will let you know.

To explain my blog title, I literally walk 3.3 km (about 2 miles) each way to work.  They have a bus system which I have been too confused to figure out, but I might have to start taking some days.  Here's the thing though, I am sitting here eating half a packet of Hobnob's and a glass of milk... not feeling guilty at all because I walked 4+ miles today.  Rock on... but now I know how our grandparents felt not having the luxury of a car to take you everywhere.

Today I went to Tralee which is in County Cork because there was a recent outbreak of TB in the area so they wanted me to see how they deal with it with testing of close contacts and how they figure out who to test and all of that (interesting to me but I am sure not to others, plus I can't say much bc of confidentiality...).  But, I did meet a lot of characters in the office who absolutely loved that I was American.  I went to lunch with the doctors I was working with in a hotel near by and I kid you not... was stared at by the locals pretty much throughout my entire meal, which, even without me commenting on, was brought on by the doctors.  They said it's because the Kerry people can sniff out a stranger.

My brother, Cason, and my sister-in-law, Megs, arrive in Cork tomorrow from their home in London!  I am very excited to see them and I am sure I will have many interesting stories for you guys about our adventures.  We already have a trip planned to the butter museum.  They have one in Cork.  Pretty awesome.

P.S.- Blarney made me miss my family since I was with them the last time I was there.
P.S.S.- I am making some friends, hopefully will be able to write some funny stories soon!

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