I was going to write this post last night when I got back from my trip, but I was just too bloody tired.
Now from the title of my post, you probably get the idea that I didn’t enjoy my stay in Cork this weekend. So I should preface this post by saying that I actually had a pretty good time. It was my first time in Ireland and I really liked the culture there. It is also completely true what they say: Irish people are ridiculously nice.
But, I spent way more money than I should have.
The first financial problem with my trip is that I have completely used up all of my vacation days at work until way into next year. This means that I can only run away from London on the weekends, and no earlier than Friday evening, when the flights are at their most expensive.
So Lesson 1 is DO NOT fly to Cork on Friday evening, and fly back to London on Sunday afternoon. You’ll end up paying through the nose! If you can manage to take the time off, flying out early Thursday morning and back early Saturday morning (still two full days), is about one-fifth the price.
Fortunately, I was visiting a friend of mine, so I made back some of my money, by not paying for a hostel. Because I have such a good friend, I also hardly paid for any meals as he cooked all of them himself, nor did I pay for any drinks at the bar when I went out with all his friends. So, all-in-all not too shabby on that front.
The first place I visited in Cork was the Cork City Gaol. Apparently the jail is the main thing to see in Cork, because everyone I talked to recommended I visit it. It was used during the Irish Civil Wars to imprison enemies of the United Kingdom (Irish Republicans), many notable figures in Irish history were held there. Unfortunately, the way the Gaol is presented to the visitor makes it hard care.
When you get to the Gaol, they ask you if you would prefer to read or listen to the history of the jail. I opted for the audio guide and was handed a Sony Walkman that was held together by an elastic. I think the last time I saw a Sony Walkman (vs. a Discman, at least), I was about eight-years-old.
Now the tape did cover a range of information, but focus really heavily on details of the lives of individual inmates without putting their life in the historical context, so it was a bit difficult to get into.
Now I have to admit something to all of you… I am not a student. I actually graduated back in June, but since my ISIC card doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, I’ve pretended to be one at every opportunity. Most places don’t even ask to see your card, so even after mine expires, I still intend to continue my ruse. I’m telling you all this because even with the student price, the Gaol still cost 7 euros!
As for my Lesson 2, while you might think it’s going to be Don’t visit the Gaol, it is actually: Only visit the Gaol if you are with an Irish person who can put it into context for you. Unfortunately, the jail only provides tours for groups of 20 people or more. A live tour would definitely make the experience more memorable.
After the jail, I went to the English Market for lunch. The market is actually the pride and joy of cork, so I was quite eager to go. I had been told that all of their seafood was extremely fresh, so I ordered the oysters — the most expensive thing on the menu — at 10 euros for a half-dozen. When the oysters came, I was disappointed to find that there was no sauce on them. (I had expected a traditional shallot and vinegar sauce.)
The other problem with the oysters was that I had drunk quite a lot of vodka the night before, so after four of them my stomach started to turn. I ended up giving away the other two and stumbling home heaving at every few paces.
Lesson 3 is don’t order seafood after a night of drinking — especially if it’s the most expensive thing on the menu and you’re paying for it yourself.
The rest of my day Saturday was spent trying to nap off my hangover and then doing it all over again at a bar in town. While not one of my lessons, I should warn you that girls in Cork dress to the nines to go out: three-inch heals, short party-dresses and a lot of make-up. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt to the bar makes you stick out like a sore thumb.
On Sunday, I rolled out of bed at the crack of noon, after vowing the night before (or early morning of) to be up by 8:30 and was treated to yet more delicious food — Rice Krispies with fresh raspberries and blackberries. The plan for the day was to visit Blarney Castle in the next town over.
Blarney Castle is famous for the Blarney Stone, which is supposed to bestow the gift of eloquence on everyone who kisses it. I will tell you right now that I did kiss the stone, so you can judge for yourself whether it worked or not.
Blarney is only a few kilometres outside of Cork, so we decided to take the bus (reasonably priced at 6.90 euros return) to get there. The ride was only about 20 minutes and the longest part of the drive was getting out of Cork.
When we got of the bus, I suddenly remembered that I was going home in a few hours and I had yet to buy any postcards. Of course, there was conveniently a souvenir shop directly across from the entrance to the castle. And also of course, it was ridiculously expensive for everything.
Cursing myself for forgetting to buy them earlier, I ended up shelling out 3.20 euros for five postcards. I’m pretty sure I could have found them for about 25 cents each in Cork.
I think my Lesson 4 is self-evident.
Having talked to an Irish guy at the bar, about my intention to kiss the Blarney Stone, I knew that the castle was a big tourist trap and was looked at with disdain by the locals. I did not, however, expect it to cost 8 euros to get in (and again that was the student price!) I think it’s fair to include the price of the bus to the admission ticket, so I paid close to 15 euros to visit it.
The inside of the castle was quite run-down and all the history was provided by notice boards placed in each room. As I am an auditory learner, unlike the gaol, I don’t think I learned anything by visiting it. And so far “My Gift of Gab” for kissing the Blarney Stone has yet to materialize. Lesson 5 of my post is believe the locals and don’t visit Blarney Castle.
I’ll talk more about the good parts of my trip in the next post. I’ll also add some photos.