A Travellerspoint blog

Pop the Cork and let the fun begin!!!

Our last stop in Ireland...

overcast 10 °C

After a relatively low-key day and a half in Killarney, we arrived in Cork on Friday afternoon. By this time, we had experienced two extremes of cities – the New York Cityish bustle of Dublin and the small-town-everything-shuts-down-for-a-relatively-minor-holiday calm of Killarney – both of which were worth experiencing in their own right. But it was easy to tell early on that Cork is the perfect combination of the two. It is the third largest city in Ireland, with a wide range of activities, restaurants, and shops, but it is still quiet enough that it doesn’t feel like there are more tourists than Irish people (which was definitely our experience in Dublin).

For starters, this hostel is probably the most diversely international, as well as the most cozy. For the first time, we are in a small room (only three bunk beds) and we are all girls. It is not necessarily uncomfortable to be in a room with guys, but it does seem a bit more fun and roommate-y with girls. And it smells way better. We have heard French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Romanian (we think), and other languages, not to mention the various versions of English.


As can be expected, our early afternoon arrival was quickly followed up with a search for lunch. Eva found a vegetarian co-op restaurant about a kilometer away, so we headed off in that direction. It turned out to be a café/deli/grocery/supplements store. After our delicious vegan wrap and empanada, we browsed and bought some breakfast supplies. Eva is on a mission to taste as many different varieties of fruit preserves as possible, so it went without question that we would pick up some “bramble” (raspberry and blackberry) jam. (Try singing “bramble jam” to the tune of “Silver Bells” in your best Bing Crosby voice. Christmas music is STILL raging here…Natalie has heard more Christmas music here, after Christmas, than she did in the entire month of December in France. And this jam was just so delicious, that every time the occasion to eat some presented itself, we couldn’t help but sing about it. *Bramble jam, bramble jam /Raspberry blackberry magic /Grab a spoon, dip it in /Eat it alone or on toast!*)

When the groceries had been stowed away in the hostel kitchen, we were back on the road, toward the city centre. Here, we found a plethora of businesses – a great mixture of stores (books, clothes, décor, etc.), TONS of restaurants from “American”-style fast food (Hillbilly’s Fried Chicken - ugh) to real French crêpes to countless Irish bars, and a refreshing number of services aimed at locals (laundromats, barber shops, First Communion clothes [yeah, we’ve seen at least four specialized stores…]). We also stopped into a little coffee shop called “The Bookshelf”, which, apparently, is housed in a former library. Here, we split a magically flavorful chai latte (it really tasted like it was made from scratch) and a slice of coffee cake…


Then we were able to spend the remainder of the day wandering about downtown checking out various shops and listening to a wide variety of (really good!) buskers.


In the evening, we stopped by a church (St. Finbarr’s – the patron saint of Cork) that was reported to have really beautiful painting and mosaic work. We saw that there was an entry fee – only a few euros – but Eva decided it wouldn’t be worth it to her uncultured eyes. So Natalie went in while Eva waited out in the yard.


It took a bit longer to go through than Natalie had anticipated. By the time she got out, darkness had fallen, and Eva had found the “noir” setting on her phone...


Saturday was another early start, but this time, the plan was to do some museuming. The first stop was the Crawford Gallery, a small public gallery with a really eclectic but very interesting collection. The entire ground floor is dedicated to a collection of 19th century plaster casts of Greco-Roman masterpieces in the Vatican, and upper galleries contained a room dedicated to rare sketches by Harry Clarke (awesome) and a couple others dedicated to the art of silhouette cutting (also quite interesting and cool). Even Eva enjoyed the latter two!
All that art made us hungry, so we stopped for a quick lunch at Fellini, reportedly the oldest tea-room in Cork. We both ordered the mushroom-blue cheese soup. Eva added a veggie sandwich, and Natalie had a side of brown bread, which she just cannot get enough of here in Ireland. Luckily, it’s everywhere…


We had fully intended a light lunch to sustain our museum visits, but the dessert case at this place was not to be passed up. Eva opted for the coffee walnut cake, while Natalie, in an attempt to round out her Irish beer experience, ordered a slice of the chocolate Guinness cake. Both were super classy and delicious, and it took all of our willpower to not go back again on Sunday.


Next on the list was something that Natalie found on an internet list of “45 Things to do in Cork”. The Butter Museum. Natalie was skeptical, but Eva knew better. Again, it was a pretty small operation – one super nice older gentleman was the only employee we saw – but it was incredibly interesting.


Apparently, the butter trade was a huge part of the development of the Cork region. As Eva observed, Ireland was making laws to regulate and streamline the production and transport of butter around Ireland before the United States even existed. But there was also good amount of weird-ass juju surrounding its production, as well. Check out this info panel (emphasis on the second paragraph):


We also learned that butter occupied a pretty strong place in Irish pop culture of the 1930s. Here is a nice toe-tapper, if you’re looking to get a song stuck in your head today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7kX2DUpbsk.

Our last full day in Ireland was spent in much the same way as the others. After a quick breakfast (much too early, if you ask Eva. But there was bramble jam…), we were off on a walk to a new neighborhood in the northern part of the city. We visited the Cork City Gaol, which has become a great museum in recent years. A bit more social and political history, as well as some very interesting information about Victorian theories surrounding prisoners’ health and rehabilitation, and how they informed the design of the period’s prisons. Surprisingly – and luckily – we were the only ones there early on a Sunday, so that contributed to some serious photo fun…


We spent the rest of our short daylight hours in outdoor exploration. After Dublin’s bitter cold, Cork had gorgeous weather – only a bit of light rain on Saturday morning, then daily temperatures in the 50s. We checked out a large park that was practically in our hostel’s backyard. It was quite pretty, and would be even more so in the spring and summer. Also quite close to the hostel was the University College Cork campus. We passed the front gates every time we walked into downtown, and we could tell that it would be worth a peek. Again, the Universities of Nebraska could learn a thing or two.


Though we had been in a couple of Irish pubs, (how could we not?!) Natalie was still really hoping to experience a traditional music session. After some cursory searching, all sources pointed towards a pub called “Sin é” (pronounced shin-ae – Gaelic for “That’s it”) as being the best in town for these unique sessions. (The tradition is that individual musicians show up at a pub with their instruments and form a casual folk jam session. It is public in that everyone in the pub can hear it, but it is not really a performance in the more concert-y sense. We managed to get pretty good seats where we were close enough to get the full sound, but still couldn’t really see much because the musicians were grouped in a circle around a corner booth.) Our sources were right, though. It was absolutely fantastic. There was a guitar, banjo, flute, tin whistle, and bagpipes, as well as a couple of random vocalists who would jump in from time to time. One of the highlights was when an older dude walked over to the corner and started up a beautiful, melancholy a cappella song. The noisy pub fell silent immediately, and when he was done, everybody clapped and he just sat back down. We also met a couple of very nice Corkonians (that’s how we learned the pronunciation and translation of the name of the pub).


We left the pub for a late dinner. Shortly thereafter, Natalie’s kumquat-sized bladder was on the verge of an accident. As many of you know, Natalie can’t go to a coffee shop without five trips to the bathroom. Well, apparently the same is true for bars. She went right before we left, but that wasn’t good enough. The friendly Corkonians had given us a few restaurant recommendations, but a toilet became the deciding factor of where we would dine. In the end it was between pizza and fish & chips. Pizza, always. A happy choice. As it was late, and we were hungry, we ordered a smattering of food: spinach and ricotta pizza, a fabulously flavorful house salad, and a panini with roasted pepper and goat cheese. Together with Sin é, it was the absolute perfect way to wrap up our time in Ireland!


Sin é!

Posted by NKammerer 11:34 Archived in Ireland Tagged food gallery church pub ireland cake museum music pizza cafe campus jail chai cork kammerer_sisters_unite cork_city_gaol corkonians

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Hi Lucy & Ethel,
Thanks so much for including your adoring audience on your adventures! Each entry is a hunger-inspiring masterpiece.


by Lara

Hi girls, I loved the picture of Eva sitting between the two mattresses on the floor of the jail cell. You looked so natural and comfortable. Angst comes to mind.

I glad you didn't get to spend time there involuntarily; or did you.

by Opa

It's almost 1PM, and your pizza is really making me hungry - it looks fabulous!

I love all of the photos - the church was fantastic!
Hope your last couple days of adventure are great.


by Judy Trout

In the spirit of Bing Crosby's "Bramble Jam", please sing the following to the tune of "Jingle Bells" in your best Babs...

Love the blog,
Not a slog,
Always lots of fun!
We are laughing with you both,
And loving you a ton!!

<3 Mom

by Lisa Kammerer

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