We knew exactly what we wanted to do on this day:
- eat a huge amazing breakfast courtesy of Pam @ Knockeven House
- Visit the Queenstown Historical Center, a museum that details the mass Irish emigration from Ireland and the area's role in the worldwide advancement of boating
- Visit St. Colman's Cathedral in Cobh
- go to Blarney Woolen Mills to shop for sweaters, scarves and hats
- visit Cork's English Market (I have a thing for food markets; see previous raves of Pike Place and West Side Market)
- visit Kinsale, eat seafood
- listen to some traditional Irish music
- get home at a reasonable hour so we could get on the road to Killarney
While the day started off great, including wonderful weather, delicious breakfast, interesting, educational museum and breathtaking cathedral, against all of our best efforts, it was not meant to be what we had hoped for.
You see, there was this thing all the locals and European press were calling The 1000 Year Storm (apparently neither it nor the one in Cumbria made the U.S. news) - basically, the worst storm to hit the isles in several hundred years was causing major flooding in Cork's city center, as well as several of the outlying country areas where smaller rivers and streams were flooding their banks, closing nearby roads and ruining homes.
We did manage to go shopping at Blarney Woolen Mills where I purchased a sweater you'll see me wearing in most of the pictures from here on out (mmmm, warm & cuddly), as well as some souvenirs to bring back to Alan's mom to thank her for watching Dakota. While shopping we thought we might at least check out Blarney Castle, but decided against it when it was 10 euro to even go anywhere near it. No thanks - with castles dotting the Cork & Kerry landscape, it just wasn't worth 20 euro to see a major tourist trap. Unfortunately, this is where our day takes a turn for the worst (well, not as bad as residents of Cork - they're still dealing with more flooding and sanitation issues). We started down one road only to find it washed out. We turned around and went down another to find - you guessed it - that it too was washed out. The whole time our GPS is telling us to make a u-turn and go back so we found ourselves driving down random country roads trying to get back to the main "ring road" to get into Cork.
At this point we hadn't heard that Cork city center was closed - in fact, we'd heard it was open. Merde! So we attempted to make it into the city center. Bad idea. VERY BAD IDEA. We drove around Cork for about an hour first trying to get to the English Market and then trying to get the hell out of dodge. Because our GPS isn't equipped to deal with road closures (or city closures for that matter) it kept sending us the wrong way. We finally stopped and asked a very nice gentleman how to leave and he gave us pretty decent instructions, if only we could have understood his thick Cork accent. Loved it!
After what seemed like FOREVER (trust me, you try driving on those narrow Cork roads and tell me how long you think it feels), we made our way to the main road and out of the city. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea so we hit a lot of traffic. Thankfully, because we had started our day so early we were able to get to Kinsale before dusk and do a walking tour of what was one of my favorite towns during the trip.
Before going to dinner we spent some time at the pub pictured above (An Seananchai), drinking beer (shocking!) and watching rugby. We watched A LOT of rugby on this trip and I've come to the decision that American football players are pansy showboats.
We had dinner at Fishy Fishy, which is one of the more famous seafood restaurants in town, and I'm really glad we did. The oysters we started with - from a place called (naturally), Oysterhaven - were amazingly plump, salty and delicious. I could have eaten them all night. Alas, we also had hake (for Alan) and scallops (for me). Alan questioned me ordering scallops, but when we got back to the room and read the guidebooks they all mentioned the incredibly fresh scallops to be found in Kinsale. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the sticky toffee pudding we ended the meal with - it ranks as quite possibly one of my favorite desserts EVER. And I love dessert. Every bite had me - quite literally - moaning with pleasure. I'm sure the table next to us found me disgusting but oh my god it was one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. I'm salivating just thinking about it.
After dinner we went back to the pub to wait for the 10:15 p.m. call time of the local musician(s). For some reason we thought it was going to be a band. Alas, it was a lone man with a guitar and a harmonica but he was great and it was exactly what we were looking for (and oh boy did we wait!). Up until this point in the trip this was the latest I'd managed to stay up and it was a struggle.
Have you ever watched The Amazing Race? You know how having a bad cabby or getting lost can be the difference between 1st place and "I'm sorry to tell you you have been eliminated from the race" (said, of course, in Phil's sexy Kiwi accent)?
Well, from this point on, that's pretty much our night. We left Kinsale, driving back to Cobh on what were pretty deserted country roads (damn Ns and Rs!). We were making good time and were relieved to find that we'd only encountered one point along the road that was a bit harried. As we approached the area we thought was near the b&b, our GPS (the lovely, British Selene voice) announced we had reached the ferry. FERRY?! We forgot to tell the bloody thing NOT to take any routes that required a ferry which, at this time, was CLOSED. We were now on the complete other side of the harbor and it was getting late. At this point we had absolutely no idea where we were and no idea on how to get where we needed to be. Everytime we'd plug our destination into the GPS it kept telling us to make a u-turn and go back. Finally, after another hour we approached Cobh, and then our inn, to find Pam the innkeeper waiting up for us. If she had had Phil standing next to her to tell us we'd been eliminated from the vacation I wouldn't have been surprised. It was really quite an awful end to what had been a day filled with highs and lows and didn't bode well for that early start the next morning.