Picking up where I left off….
We got up for yet another Irish fry breakfast in the room downstairs, and then walked down the street to the Catholic church for Sunday mass. I think we were both probably hoping for an old creaky church with character, but we got a newer (I’d venture mid-’50’s) building that was obviously meant to hold hundreds. The service was also meant to get the faithful in and out the door, after a lengthy appeal for donations. It was fun to hear the service delivered in a thick Irish accent— it was sort of like watching a kung-fu movie you’ve already seen dubbed poorly in English.
Before leaving, we checked out the town’s main landmark, Cahir castle. The castle itself is beautifully restored, and visitors are allowed pretty much the run of the place. Within ten minutes of entering the grounds, we were climbing the battlements and found ourselves in the outside towers overlooking the town. (The ten-year-old in me would have flipped over this.) Unfortunately, we were also sharing the place with a German couple who closely resembled Paris Hilton and one of the Gotti Boys. To give you the idea: Ladies, when you know you’re going to be crawling through a 16th-century castle, it’s a good idea not to wear a white plastic miniskirt with a hem above your ass. Because I might wind up climbing behind you on one of the spiral staircases, and I don’t want to have your skanky German hoo-ha an inch from my face.
North of town lies another local curiosity: the Swiss Cottage. Built by the local landowner for his wife to entertain and play peasant in, it’s a mismatched, one of a kind house that’s been restored as close to original as possible. We paid our entrance fee and joined the tour. It’s worth a look if you have the chance, but I wouldn’t go out of my way just to see it.
From Cahir, we continued north to the Rock of Cashel to see the ruin of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was billed as one of the most picturesque ruins in Ireland. We parked once in the town below the Rock, realized just how far away it was to walk, and then moved the car up.
The ruin is magnificent. It sits at the top of the hill overlooking the entire valley, and it’s surrounded by old leaning headstones. On a normal misty, rainy Irish afternoon, I’m sure it would be picturesque, but on the day we visited, it was breathtaking—the sun was shining and there were only a few fluffy clouds floating past. We hitched a ride with one of the tours and heard about the history, then wandered outside to take in the view on our own. All around the base of the Rock there are grazing meadows, and we were surrounded by the sound of sheep softly calling to each other.
After a good long time at the Rock, we jumped back in the car and aimed for Kilkenny. Jen took the wheel of the Opel for the first time—she respectfully requested skipping the chance until we were safely away from Cork—and only scared me twice. (By this time, I’d scared her about thirty times.) After making it into town, we got directions to our B&B and checked in. Having the afternoon to wander through town and scope out a place to eat, we took our time and checked out the sights.
After looking for a half-hour or so, we came upon a swank-looking hotel/restaurant and stopped in for a bite to eat. Again, I had high hopes for our meal to come out looking like what had been described on the menu, but was presented with the most disgusting bowl of penne pasta I’ve ever seen. The Irish need to learn a little something about the science of cream and cheese sauces. However, the beer was cold and tasted good, and we retired to the bar for another drink. One drink became two, and soon we were pleasantly buzzed and had forgotten all about the lousy meal.
Our quiet conversation was interrupted by a heavily tattooed fellow at the other end of the bar who was making frequent and colorful use of the F-bomb, which punctuated his conversation in the place of conjunctions, verbs, and nouns. He stuck a finger in the face of our bartender and threatened a good old Irish beatdown to the entire waitstaff, going so far as to call the female bartender a F-ing C-t. At about the point where any self-respecting American barkeep would have introduced Tattoo Man to the business end of a baseball bat (and five minutes past a call to the local cops), Tattoo Man declared that he was “more F-ckin’ Irish than YOU” and demanded to shake hands with the offending bartender. He and his posse of three drunken football fans then made a huge show of leaving, but not without kissing all the children in the bar.
We offered a drink to the bartender, who politely declined, and he told us the three choirboys had been drunk on arrival—in his words, “they were so droonk they fell in the doorway.” The ruckus had been started when they cut Tattoo Man off and asked him to leave.
Then, we were hailed down by an obviously wasted local woman, who engaged us in a sweet but rambling two hour conversation about the Yorkshire Ripper, her books, Rod Stewart (this was, in fact, her entree to the conversation: “Are you here to see Rod Stewart?” yelled halfway across the bar) and Kilkenny.
After disengaging ourselves from that tiring experience (trying to follow the conversation of a drunk is like trying to catch a fly with chopsticks) we took the other exit from the restaurant and hustled back to our car—but not before taking some pictures of the castle from the bridge.