Cows and cathedrals. What better introduction to Ireland?
Actually, our real introduction was trying to find our hotel in south Dublin. The directions estimated 40 minutes from the airport. It took us almost 3 hours. Maps don't help when only about 1 out of 8 intersections bothers to have a street name attached. Frazzled? Let's just say a pint of Guiness didn't go amiss, once we'd found the place and settled down enough to venture out to a pub.
The next day, though, we were on the road again, heading south. We stopped at the Rock of Cashel, which in ancient days seated the kings of Munster. In later years, ie, around 1100 A.D. (adjust your chronometers--we're on historical time, now) the land was given to the Catholic Church, and a cathedral was built, along with an archbishop's residence and various and sundry other establishments. All picturesque ruins, now. That's the Rock of Cashel, above, taken from the vantage point of a much smaller, ruined abbey in the cow pasture below.
This is one of the very cool things about Ireland--you're driving along, or walking, and you see a ruined stone tower, or abbey, or some such, out in the middle of a pasture, or tucked behind a modern farmhouse. The cattle must be used to tourists tramping through for a closer look; like Bessie, above, they mostly didn't turn a hair.
From Cashel we made our way to the southern coastal town of Kinsale, in County Cork. I've seen some pretty towns, but Kinsale is so adorable you want to pick it up and tuck it in your pocket. It is that cute. We stayed at the San Antonio B&B, the same place my sweetie had spent a night about 6 years ago. The room was comfortable, the food glorious, and conversation with Jimmie, the proprietor, was best of all. Global politics, the euro, the recent Irish elections--fascinating, intelligent, and funny as hell, and besides that, Jimmie cooked the best breakfast we had in Ireland (and second only to Linda and Dave's in Edinburgh). On Jimmie's advice, we walked to the Spaniard Inn that night to hear traditional Irish music. Three musicians in a corner of the pub, the whole place packed. Occasionally, an older person would come sit by the musicians and start to sing, and those moments were magical.
We did some exploring, around Fort Charles and Kinsale Harbour, but mostly we relaxed, enjoying the food, the scenery, and the wonderful warmth of our Irish hosts. We didn't have long--just two days--then we headed back to Dublin International Airport, and home. It felt like time--I was missing my critters, and the easiness of my own house, and my friends. And so Celtic Tour 2007 ended. I hope it won't be long before we can go back.