Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cork - how we wish we could do that to the rain!

Ho hum, more rain!
Ok Ireland - we are officially over it! You can stop now. Really!!
Like rain, rain go away, come back when we have left Ireland!

We had made plans to do the Cork City (red bus) Tour this morning but it is raining that heavily that we would have had to sit downstairs on the bus and even then could not have taken photos because of the wet view through the windows and/or the steaming up of the windows. The weather forecast is really grim with wet weather planned all day. So we delay our departure - at least it gives me a chance to complete the blog from yesterday, to catch up with Gen and reply to emails from Bill and Greta planning for our visit early next week.

There is a bit of a break in the weather so we decide to head into town and try our luck. Ha Ha. The place is absolutely crawling with people - the big department store here - Debenhams has a really big sale on and so I think people are using the wet weather to go and spend some money. Cork, like many old cities, has a central area that is a maze of one-way streets, most of them very narrow, a pedestrianised inner area and an absolute dearth of parking. Guess the parking fairy is holed up in bed nice and warm out of the 8°C. When we get to the multi-storey in a line behind a whole heap of other cars, the sign says car park full. Hang on, it just changed! Uh oh, and has changed back. Then I realise that as cars leave, it changes. So we crawl up the ramp. When I get to the top and push the button for the ticket - nothing happens. Then I realise that I can't even get a ticket until another car leaves through the boom gates. Wow - it really is full!!!

Doesn't take too long to get a ticket to get in, but finding that elusive spot ain't easy. On our second round we spot a couple just leaving and so wait for their space. I tell you, that parking fairy had better not abandon me for too long - after all I am foregoing ever winning lotto for the trade-off of always finding a parking space. So, car parked we head back down town - only to realise that the bus has gone and there will not be another one for about 90 minutes. That's not all bad though as we go in search of something to eat.

Just down from the car park is the Cork English Market. An arcade of individual traders, this is bustling with sounds and smells. There are more butchers and chicken sellers than I have ever seen in any other marketplace and we are amazed at some of the prices. No wonder there are so many people here. And the range of vegetables is amazing - there is one stall selling olives and there would have easily been 2 dozen different varieties. We stop to buy some matches (pastry cakes) at a bakery stall and the lady serving us is very chatty -
"are we here on holidays?
Shame about the weather.
We have not had much of a summer for the last 3 years.
Where are you from?
Oh gosh, and you left that warm weather
Gosh, she is better than - well, me!

By now we are starving - it is after 1:30 pm and we have not had anything to eat yet today. I spy the sign for the FarmGate Restaurant and we head upstairs. Now, remember all those cars waiting for parking? Well I think all their occupants are here for lunch. The maitre'd tells us that there will be a 5 - 10 minute wait and hands us a menu to have a look at. Mmmm, everything sounds so yummy, so we decided to wait. Well, 20 minutes later we are shown to a table and a pitcher of water and basket of home baked bread out in front of us as we await our meals. We are hungry and the food smells wonderful so we order:
half a dozen fresh oysters (Michael) - check out the size of them, that is a full size dinner fork
Braised Lamb Shank (Michael)
Smoked Bacon and Ardrahan Cheese Sausages served with Onion and Champ (Maria)
Fruit crumble (only when there was no apple tart left) with cream (Michael)
Lemon tart with cream (Maria) - this was suck in your lips and squint your eyes deliciously tart - oh how I enjoyed it - well most of it. Was too full to finish it so Michael did!
We finished with a coffee and a lemon tea after 4 pm!!! Gosh, where did the afternoon go?

So, once out we realise that there is now only one bus left for the day and it only does a part route. We will get up earlier tomorrow and do it then! Angels and Demons was released this week so we figure we will go see it. Get over to the cinema our hotel receptionist recommended - same story with parking. I am about to take the ticket in another multi-storey car park a few blocks from the cinema when I see the sign that the car park closes at 6:30 pm. Foiled again!

We know there is another cinema close to where we are staying so we go to check it out. Angels and Demons is not on until 8:30 pm. Fairly close by is Blackrock Castle Observatory so we figure we will kill a little time by taking a look. It has stopped raining for the time. We go searching for it, unsuccessfully, but manage to find another (new) cinema. Parking fairy has woken up and we find a spot right outside the entrance!
Angels and Demons is not on until late there either but the new Star Trek movie starts in 10 minutes - so ice cream in hand off we go. Lovely leather seats - nice and big. There are quite a few people in the theatre - no doubt they want to escape the weather as well. Won't ruin it for all our Trekkie mates, but suffice to say we think that the producers have done very well with both the plot and the actors. Great movie - well worth seeing.

So, movie done it is now 8 pm (but feels like 4pm). We can actually see some clear sky - not quite sunny, but not far off. So I head in the opposite direction and just when we think that we will not find the castle (despite following two lonely signs), we turn a bend and there she is right in front of us. Of course the complex is closed for the day, but at least we can see the outside. This is a 16th century castle that now houses the Cork observatory. Armed with camera in hand, Michael gets shots from nearly all directions around.

So we are now back at the Maryborough Hotel. The place is jumping tonight - quite literally. As well as the Criminal Investigators conference that is on here at the moment, there are 13 first communion celebration parties happening. Did I say jumping? Yeah, well put together a whole heap of young kids and party drinks and food and it surely is.

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