So Cork. A simple city, lovely in its open streets, small buildings, and its hilly skyline guarded by cathedral spires and church belltowers. That’s the first impression i get after my 5 hour coach trip from Belfast. The industrial shipping area downtown on the River Lee looking nostalgic, criss-crossed tower cranes nodding off to sleep over the river, the yards quiet and at peace before the days labours begin.
Hauling my pack on, i stroll about town, get lost, go the wrong way again, before backtracking to the other side of the river in search of a hostel. Rocking up to bru bros (covered in all blacks flags), they tell me they are chockers. After making 4 telephone calls, so is everyone else it seems. This is usually how i travel, very last minute, because i don’t remember important stuff like dates, tickets, pre booking etc. At this point it doesn’t even surprise me. 5 mins later, as usual, i beat murphys again, and lo and behold i find a hostel. Yeah it’s a noisy, thin walled room, attached to those shit showers with the push button and no hot water, water dribbling out of tiny shower heads, comparable to a cactus having a wee in dry season. But it’s a roof and the room is warm, even if it smells funny because old mate across the way there, wont stop squeezing out the old methane cushion of steamy hot air.
After a few eventful graffiti finds and black sabbath thundering in my ears, i come across a few churches, and quite a looker by the name of Fin Barre. A dramatic piece of gothic revival architecture. Dirty whites and greys, a few gargoyles hiding amongst the cork limestone as your eyes search the impressive structure for more of the interesting scupltures, whilst the golden “goldy” angel peers down at you curiously from its hand held trumpets. Out the back is a “labyrinth” which i complete in about 1 minute instead of the recommended 10, waiting for the church service to finish. The service ends and in i go to do the whole touristy ‘point and shoot’. Not as gothic inside, and minus the dramatic personality of the exterior, i make my speedy exit back into the green burial garden, of which both pavement and retaining wall are constructed out of burial headstones. Very cool. Much cooler then the euros paid to get inside the cathedral.
Discovery of 2 things made cork much more enjoyable then if i hadn’t found them. Franciscan Well. Stonewell Cider. Cork had yet to speak to me in loving tones until i met both beverages on a friday afternoon over ribs and chicken, and a saturday evening with my fellow aussie compatriot Monique. First the IPA. Like honey gold, Franciscan Well is brewed in town by a bunch of italians, it is said walking into the brewery is like walking into little italy. Have a pint of the stuff and you’ll feel about as enlightened as Gandhi and holier then the pope. Ripper stuff. Stonewell Cider. Well, truth be told i had to abandon ship before i demolished too many of these and fell off my stool. I fell upon my stonewell like a wrecking ball does on a retired brick wall. A dry cider, a perfect sitter on ice. Well not really a sitter, i mean it was gone in a few minutes. Enough said.
I spent most of the typical on/off rainy day out at Blarney with mon. Heading out, we took to wandering around the english market, to where we find sangers. Piles of market beef and sauerkraut on brown bread. Fat chunks of bocconcini and tomato shoved into baguettes. Steaming lentil and parsnip soups…. Once in Blarney, we duck into the local chocolate shop and endeavouring not to pound away 777 million salted caramel dark chocolate bars into my fat old tum tum, we bumble through the turnstile and into the magical place away from the world that Blarney Castle hosts. Miniature lakes hover at the base of the castle, surrounded by trails and a thousand shades of fresh, rich greens. Grounds stretching out into fields, forests and fern gardens in all directions are governed by the looming warden that is Blarney Castle.
Stretching our legs out now, we start our little exploration down one of the gravel paths, passing tunnels carved into rock, narrowly avoiding a proper good stack on a wet tunnel floor. Outside the path quickly turns into an autumn swept blanket of bright reds and oranges, yellowing leaves in the colourful canopy waving at me from above. The greens in abundance are showing off, and together, paint a scene of immense colour granduer. You know those places you think of when you’re a kid when you’re reading Enid Blyton or Nevernever something something or other. It’s proof they do exist. Choice bro. After a half day debate about whether i’m going to kiss the Blarney Stone with Mon, because to be frank, i’m convinced people have watered down the old fella on a drunken night of escapades, let alone other raucious acts, collateralised with every other tom, dick and harry kissing it has turned me right off it. So i went and kissed it anyway.
Once finishing our little expedition in Nevernever land, we strolled over to the wool factory and picked up a few bits before heading back to cork. Superbly handmade, and uber snug like a kangaroos pouch. Instead of looking like a ‘hipster’ as people so like to say, I had now evolved into a raging fisherman with this woolen weapon of Thor clad on my chest. I felt like i could wrestle a whale and hunt sharks barehanded. Give me a pipe and i’ll show popeye a thing or two.
Rolling into town on our double decker, with our appetites aroused, we hop off and race over to the markets for some bush tucker. Fish and chips. Sausage dealers. Wok boxes. Super smoked pulled pork sangers. Every flavour fudge. Organic soups. Potato crisps made on the spot. Lebanese kebabs. Vegetable mousaka. Crepes. So i had a good whack at the mole and ate a load of stuff. First up – a load blowing bowl of organic apple and bacon soup, with fresh white bread, lathered thick in butter. After leaving half of it in my beard, i went for a smoky pulled pork sanger next. I’ve seen them before, but not like this. An enticing mountainous creation, steaming hot and rich in smoky aromas, which is 80% pulled pork, 20% bun. No shit. Gods save us pagans who dare to walk in Valhalla. Still hungry, i mooched over to the sausage dealers, and instead of being normal and modest, i went and got a sausage platter for 2. Even shared, it was still a bit much for the old tum tum. Not to be defeated, i wandered over to the crepe stall, and got myself a proper honey and cinnamon crepe. Aromas of nutella and strawberries, banana and cinnamon wafting up my nose, i could feel my tastebuds cruely awaiting their freedom to taste again. Munching my crepe down cheerfully, we wander about the cork streets, lit up with starry gold lights and christmas trees, enjoying the warm christmassy feel about town.
Last stop on the road, a pub by the name of Sin E. Walking through the door the heat envelops you like a blanket, while the poetic voice of a trad singer plying his trade prepares you for what is yet to come. Hopping on the timber bar stools, i down a whiskey to help my digestion, with a Franciscan Well to chase, while Mon sips away on a cider. Looking up, there is all kinds of posters stuck to the roof in every conceivable spot. Cork city champions of the 70s. Rules of the barbershop. American dollars. Led zeppelin posters. Top notch level of cool. Very cosy inside, with golden ipa flowing down a little too easily, it feels great to sit down and ponder life to a great irish trad outfit, who’s singing shuts the whole pub up for a few mins while he serenades us all, to a rousing applause at the finish line. Finishing off my dry stonewell, the sandman beckons and with a hooroo my fellow sailor, i head up the hill to my tiny bunk, and conk out like an old man after a few glasses of sherry.
After picking up some munchies from the market, i march over to cork station in the constant rain. Hopping on the 2pm dublin train, i’m finally greeted by that mouthwatering beef and sauerkraut sandwich, with edam cheese and special i don’t know dressing. A sandwich shrouded in mystery. Sandwicho Mysterio! I had much trouble not shoving the whole glorious masterpiece into my face. With the old bloke across the way giving me a number of curious stares, probably due to the bits of sauerkraut and breadcrumbs sprinkled across my beard like fairylights, i settle into my book and peace out to some bon iver. I bump into my friend ted on the way back to the crib in dublin, and am welcomed by a delicious t-bone steak christened with a mound of veges and a crispy bowl of fresh fried potato sliver thingos. I am one spoilt bastard. Full of delicious goodness, I dream like a thief in a gold mine. See you in Lisbon ✌❤