Cork was way crazier than Galway, as the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland. We were there for two full days, and the entire first day was spent walking around the city, looking at churches, and doing something I absolutely despise… Souvenir shopping.
I don’t know what the rest of the family had said to her back home, but Jesus Christ. I think I heard the words, “Sterling silver bracelet” at least sixty times daily, every single day we were in Ireland. “We need to get this hat…” “Do you think so and so would like this?” “Will this fit an eight year old?” “That’s not sterling silver.” “I need a sterling silver bracelet.”
I tried to distract her from it by taking her to a market, which was totally new to her. We stopped for a sandwich with pesto in it (I failed to mention it had pesto because she had said she hates pesto, and I knew she would like it, which she did), but that didn’t last long and we were right back to trying to find things to buy.
Since this was her first time staying in a room apart from me, she took it upon herself to make friends with two other girls in her room, which turned out to be awesome. They were two girls from Germany, and we hung out with them for dinner before deciding to come back to the ground floor of the hostel (which was a bar– see Bru’s Bar and Hostel) for some live music that night.
Unfortunately, the live music turned out to be a singer-songwriter with a bad case of tone deafness. Instead of paying attention we decided to make friends with a hot Canadian at the end of the bar named Mark and a cool Argentinian guitarist with dreadlocks who was working at the hostel. Instead of going out and looking at more stuff, we were up until 1 in the morning drinking, laughing, and singing classic songs in English as we took turns on the guitar and on my ukulele.
The girls convinced us to do Blarney’s castle, despite how touristy it sounded. The next day we went, and it was actually way cooler than Cork.
There were tons of little shops (touristy, yeah, but pretty). And the whole day we spent just running around looking at everything we could in the five or so hours we had before we needed to be back to catch our bus to Kilkenny.
The grounds are incredibly green as you’d expect from Ireland, but there were also a ton of plants from other countries, gardens, and walkways. Also on the grounds was the Rock Close, where a witch who steals firewood (and in return grants wishes – wtf) lives, and a fern garden which looked like a scene straight out of the children’s innuendo-rich animated film Fern Gully.
Grandma was totally entranced with the whole experience. “Oh! What’s that plant? What are see flowers? Oh, heavens! Look at that tree!”
The castle itself was terrifying . The steps are slippery and steep, and every time you move between rooms you can see how high you’ve gone (and how far you’re probably going to fall before you die). Grandma was too afraid to kiss the stone, which she later regretted, but I forced myself to do it and accidentally tipped six euro to the photographer…
I like to live on the edge by not planning far enough ahead of time to make things relatively stress-free, but Grandma wasn’t used to this lifestyle. We made it back to the city with very little time to spare and had a hard time finding the place from which we were to leave, and compounding that with the fact that we had to pay to use the restrooms in public buildings, she was about ready to kill me (misplaced blame, I say). I regretfully snapped a little when she got cross with me over it.
“Grandma, I’ve never been here! I don’t know all the places and buses and there’s no way I can possibly know what all the buildings are for and why everything is the way it is! I’m sorry the maps are confusing and the timetables aren’t exact but there’s no way I can just figure it out by osmosis. That’s the whole reason I travel! You have to stop worrying about it so much.”
Indeed, we hadn’t really made any costly or stupid mistakes yet. Extra walking around maybe, but nothing bad. Either way, we made it on our bus to Kilkenny.