Ireland Day 2 – Cork

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Like the Pictures? Buy the Prints. For more Ireland photos, visit Brian Eden’s gallery.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2007

On Friday, we would rent a car and drive from Dublin to Cork on the wrong side of the road.

And so, for the first time since puberty, I lay awake in the middle of the night mentally rehearsing the act of driving.

Three a.m. came and passed. Then four. I tossed. I turn signaled. I couldn’t believe I was losing sleep over this.

In the morning, we walked bleary-eyed into the Dublin Hertz to rent our Irish Death Chariot.

Personally, I would have preferred Avis. They try harder. And Avis doesn’t sound like “Hearse.”

After filling out some paperwork, my dad asked the Hertz employee if he’d recommend getting a GPS navigation device for the car.

“No. If you haven’t used one before, I wouldn’t recommend it.” He said, typing our information into the computer.

“Em…” he drummed his fingers on the desk, “have ye ever driven on the left’and side before?”

“No.”

He frowned. “Then I would recommend that you get the insurance.”

This did not bode well.

Upon getting into our very small Nissan of Death and Peril, it was clear that they had expected us.

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Aside from being absolutely terrifying, the hardest things about driving on the left are the parts you never expect to be hard.

For example, judging how much room you have on the passenger side of the car. At home, I could drive my car through the bedroom doorway without so much as grazing a mirror. I know where my side-view mirror is like I know where my elbow is. But switch the wheel around and suddenly I’m a drunken clod, knocking into objects and disregarding traffic signals.

“Whumpa-whumpa-whumpa-whumpa.” The tires rumbled as we drove along the N8 to Cork.

My dad looked out the window, turned to me and calmly said, “Bri, you’re driving on the shoulder.”

To anyone driving behind me, it looked like I’d already had a few pints before 8am.

But if wasn’t my fault. The shoulder kept sneaking up on me.

If you ask me, they should be required to put fanny packs on the rental car bumpers so other drivers know to leave extra room. A Radius of Stupidity, if you will.

“Careful, love. That one’s got Stars and Stripes. Give him a few extra car lengths.”

In Cork city, where the streets were considerably narrower, the driving was even scarier. A pedestrian could track my progress through the city based on the direction of the blaring horns. On one particularly skinny street, I came molecules within massacring an entire neighborhood’s worth of side-view mirrors.

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I’ve always liked to think that I’m at least somewhat coordinated. But, with the traffic going in the wrong direction, I found myself turning the volume down on the radio so I could concentrate on making a right turn. Evidently I can’t handle the automotive equivalent of walking and chewing gum.

Parallel parking was another challenge. For some reason, it was impossible to look over my left shoulder to back up. I was hard wired to look right. Zoolander with a Nissan. It only took one very badly failed attempt to give up completely. For the rest of the trip, I craned my head exorcist-style over my right shoulder to back up. The pedestrians merely stopped and stared. Wondering why I was parking with my left cheek pressed against the driver’s side window.

The street signs took some getting used to as well. They’re not always in The President’s English.

In Ireland, there are no highways. Here, you drive on a “Dual Carriageway.” Which is terrible. Because, what are you supposed to shout as you lay down the law? “It’s my way or the dual carriageway?”

Instead of signs to “Slow Down,” there are very polite mentions of “Traffic Calming Ahead.” Perhaps this is why they don’t have much trouble with road rage. Everyone is always being reminded when to calm down.

Or maybe it’s because most Irish people drive sheep.

At one point, we passed a sign that said “Roadwork Scheme.” This was an exciting development. I didn’t know what the scheme was, but I definitely wanted to be in on it.

I pulled over in front of a supermarket and asked a little old lady about the roadwork scheme. She shrugged, and pretended to know nothing about it.

Suuuuuuure.

If I’d had more time, I would’ve tried to follow her back to her evil lair.

But we had places to go and lunch to eat.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Cork Sign

Cork

River Lee

Cork Woman

Cork feels much more like a European city than Dublin. Colorful buildings, interesting architecture, unintelligible accents. Cork wouldn’t be out of place in Italy. In fact, the city topography is similar to Florence. Cork is split in half by the River Lee. South of the Lee is the city center. There are narrow, charming streets lined with cheerful shops, pubs and restaurants. North of the river, where we found our hotel, the landscape goes vertical. The streets are steep like Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood. This cardiovascular uphill workout is a major bonus when you’ve eaten nothing but meat, potatoes and Guinness.

Cork Steep Street

Cork kids

Cork is Ireland’s third largest city. It’s also the nation’s culinary capital, with the acclaimed Ballymaloe Cooking School just a short drive to the East in the nearby countryside. So, after checking in to the Quality Hotel, we made a beeline for the English Market to sample the food.

Cork English Market

Cork English Market

The English Market is a fantastic public market. The immaculate produce, meat and olive stalls come pretty close to rivaling those in Florence’s Mercato Centrale. The English Market is a bit smaller, but certainly not lacking in quality or amount of drool I dribbled down the display cases.

Cork English Market

On the second floor of the market is a restaurant called Farmgate. It’s not only farm-to-fork, but their food is delivered straight from the stalls in the market below. The menu even specifies which vendor each ingredient came from.

Farmgate Restautant

One item on the menu was “Tripe and Onions with Drisheen.” Which, I believe, is a cleaning product. “I can’t believe how clean this Tripe is! Thanks Drisheen!”

Appealing as that sounded, I opted for the Irish Lamb Stew, because the waitress recommended it and it doesn’t remove hard-to-clean stains.

lamb stew

My Dad and I also split a dozen oysters, which were shucked downstairs and delivered straight to our table. Unless you’re standing on the oyster boat, or treading water, it doesn’t get much fresher than that.

oysters

Some more pictures from the afternoon in Cork:

Cork Window

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Cork English Market

Cork Railing

Murphy's Sign

Cork

Cork Florist

Cork Florist

Cork Arch

Cork Window

Cork Christmas

Cork Christmas

Cork Man

Cork People

Cork

Cork Graffiti

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River Lee

Cork Biker

Guinness Sign

School’s out!

Cork kids

Cork kids

Cork kids

Cork Building

Cork Door

Cork Buildings

Cork Dog

Cork Woman

Cork Buildings

Dinner was at Greene’s. A charming restaurant nestled against the rocky base of a steep incline a block north of the River Lee. From the windows, we had a view of a waterfall cascading down the rocks, which, while probably fake, was convincing enough to suspend disbelief.

Dinner began with a Chicken Liver Pate amuse bouche.

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Next came Fish Stew made with prawns, salmon and calamari.

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For a main course, I stuck with the day’s stew theme. A tagine of monkfsh and tiger prawns in tomato and garlic broth with saffron turned potatoes, aioli and garlic croutons.

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Needless to say, there was no room for dessert.

After dinner, we unbuttoned our pants and waddled uphill to Pat Buckley’s Bar to try our first Pint of the Cork-brewed Murphy’s Irish Stout.
Pat Buckley's

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Pat Buckley’s was the perfect tiny Irish Pub. The place was Cheers with impossible accents. On the night we visited, every stool was filled. It only took about 12 men, all regulars who no doubt have come to the pub every day for their entire adult lives. As I sipped my Murphy’s I tried hard to eavesdrop, but the Cork accents are brutal. The people speak as though they’ve been drinking Drisheen.

I did manage to make out bits and pieces of a conversation between the bartender and one of the older patrons.

The bartender had mentioned the name of an actor. The patron, an older man about 70, had never heard of him.

“Really?” The bartender said.

“Yea. Who is ‘e?” the patron asked.

The bartender leaned in and set to explaining who Dirk Diggler was.

Like the Pictures? Buy the Prints. For more Ireland photos, visit Brian Eden’s gallery.

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One thought on “Ireland Day 2 – Cork

  1. Lawrence Eden says:

    Hi Bri,
    I love reading your travel log. Its like being there all over again but even better because I get to see the humor in it all through your eyes. Can’t wait to see what comes next. Love Dad

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